Legislature passes state budget; L’Italien secures funding for children with autism, students with dyslexia, Alzheimer’s awareness, and more

BOSTON, MA: The Massachusetts legislature yesterday passed the FY18 state budget, which included several amendments sponsored by 2nd Essex and Middlesex Senator Barbara L’Italien, D-Andover. The budget now heads to the desk of Governor Baker.

Despite an incredibly difficult fiscal year due to revenue shortfalls, L’Italien was able to successfully advocate for the funding of several important budget initiatives: $100,000 to continue a statewide Alzheimer’s public awareness campaign; $4,500,000 for the children’s Autism waiver to provide behavioral health services for hundreds of children with autism; almost $1,400,000 for the Massachusetts Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment Initiative; $3,250,000 for municipal police staffing grants; as well as language improving literacy programs for children with dyslexia.

“I am pleased to see the legislature close a $733 million budget gap while maintaining many critical services. I’m proud of the items I secured in the state budget and the money I was able to return to the taxpayers,” said L’Italien. “It was a tough budget year, but I was able to obtain important money for local needs, including public safety improvements in Dracut, municipal improvements for the Tewksbury Fire Department, the Andover Historic Mill District Project, and programs and nonprofits in Lawrence.”

Additionally, Senator L’Italien secured funding for a Middlesex County Restoration Center, a priority of her good friend and colleague the late Senator Kenneth Donnelly (D-Arlington), which would provide greater opportunity to divert individuals with mental illness and/or substance use disorders toward treatment and away from the criminal justice system. The center would help support ongoing law enforcement diversionary efforts in nearly two-dozen Middlesex communities, including Tewksbury and Dracut, while also expanding the community capacity for treatment.

Senator L’Italien also successfully advocated for several initiatives to improve the lives of seniors and individuals with disabilities across the commonwealth.  She authored an amendment to include dyslexia-specific instruction as part of state-funded early literacy grants.

“Dyslexia is a very common learning disability, but it is frequently misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all until a child falls far behind his or her peers in school. I am glad to help ensure that children with dyslexia get the specialized instruction they need at a young age so that they can become grade-level readers and enjoy learning in school,” said L’Italien.

The $100,000 allotted to Alzheimer’s public awareness funds year two of a statewide campaign designed to educate the public about early warning signs of the disease, the importance of early diagnosis, access to a broad array of patient services, and the importance of family caregiver education and support. Early diagnosis and treatment keeps seniors with Alzheimer’s safe and provides support for them and their families as we work towards finding a cure for this disease.

The Autism waiver ensures that young children with autism who are at risk of institutionalization can instead continue to live at home with their families and receive behavioral services in their homes.

The Massachusetts Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment Initiative (MAICEI) enables students aged 18-22 who have intellectual and developmental disabilities to participate in college with their same-aged peers.  More than half of our public colleges and universities, including Middlesex Community College and Northern Essex Community College partner with local school districts to provide these opportunities for students with disabilities and enabling those students to become more independent and learn important skills necessary to become employed in the future.

Police staffing grants will help bolster police forces and improve public safety statewide, including the City of Lawrence.