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State Sen. Barrett joins committees on health, adoption, early edication

Posted by Jaclyn Reiss  December 12, 2013 12:40 PM

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State Sen. Mike Barrett, a Lexington Democrat who also represents Waltham and other nearby communities, has been named to three committees specializing in health disparities, adoption costs, and early education access, according to a statement from his office.

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State Sen. Mike Barrett
He was recently named to the Health Disparities Council, the Early Education and Care Commission, and a newly-created task force on the adoption process in Massachusetts. The Health Disparities Council, created in 2006, looks for solutions to health care inequalities. The council includes hospitals, insurance companies, community health centers, and the Massachusetts Medical Society, among others. Originally charged with examining racial and ethnic disparities, the council included people with disabilities earlier this year after Barrett pushed for it, according to his office. Representatives noted that he also serves as Senate chair on the Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities. His office, citing the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, said that 13 percent of disabled Massachusetts residents report getting to a doctor is prohibitively expensive, compared to 6 percent of people without a disability. That gap is small relative to other states, but Barrett said in his statement that more can be done. When people with disabilities do get to the doctor’s office, Barrett said, they face further challenges: Earlier this year, a survey of more than 250 specialists in major American cities found that fewer than 10 percent of offices had disability-friendly equipment, such as height-adjustable examining tables, and most lacked specially-trained employees, the statement said.

“On the whole, people with disabilities smoke at a higher rate and have higher obesity numbers,” said Barrett, a healthcare IT specialist by profession, in his statement. “When you dig deeper, you’ll see this population also has a harder time seeing doctors due to high costs.”

Barrett has also been appointed to a newly-formed adoption task force which will recommend ways to reduce costs and delays in the adoption process. The task force, led by children and families department commissioner Olga Roche, will consult with chief justices of the probate and family and juvenile courts to come up with solutions.

Adoption expenses consist of home study and legal fees, among other costs, Barrett's office said.

Barrett will also serve on the recently-created Early Education and Care Commission, which will study early education's high costs and care services, and look at ways to expand access.

Citing the nonprofit Early Education for All, Barrett's office said 40 percent of pre-school aged children in Massachusetts are not enrolled in an early education program.

“Sixteen percent of kids who aren’t reading at a proficient level when they finish third grade end up not graduating from high school on time,” Barrett said. “We should be investing in their future from an early age.”

For more information, visit Barrett's legislative page.

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Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at jaclyn.reiss@globe.com

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