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Bill Aims at Coordination: Better Health, Housing, Healthy Food

Supporters join Rep. Jay Livingstone, D-Boston, second from right, as lawmakers hold a hearing on a new measure to improve the well-being of hundreds of thousands of children in the Commonwealth. Courtesy: Health Care For All
Supporters join Rep. Jay Livingstone, D-Boston, second from right, as lawmakers hold a hearing on a new measure to improve the well-being of hundreds of thousands of children in the Commonwealth. Courtesy: Health Care For All
October 21, 2015

BOSTON - There is no shortage of state agencies trying to battle health and housing issues in the Commonwealth, but a new bill says a lot more could be accomplished through coordination.

Rep. Jay Livingstone, D-Boston, said the measure will help children and families by improving such things as access to food assistance and eliminating unnecessary barriers to emergency shelter.

"One agency can't do this alone, and this bill tries to get at that," he said. "How can you make every part of the system a little more efficient, deliver better services - get people, who are struggling to get back on their feet, have a better outcome."

Lawmakers held a hearing on the measure Tuesday at the Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities.

Jamie Gaynes, children's health coordinator at Health Care For All, said the measure aims to take a holistic approach to assisting the one in seven children in Massachusetts who live in poverty.

"So, you almost look at it as a math equation," she said. "If you have stable housing plus healthy nutritious food, plus access to health care, you have a higher likelihood - a greater than equal chance - of having a healthy, successful child."

Livingstone said one part of the measure is sure to save money and aggravation, because applicants will not have to prove they are in need every time they apply to a different state agency.

"So, this measure calls for a common application," he said, "so as soon as one agency verifies information, that can be used by the other agencies to approve public benefits."

The measure, House Bill 429 and Senate Bill 94, is called An Act Relative to Ensuring the Wellbeing of All Children in the Commonwealth.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - MA