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News Briefs: Pignatelli spearheads monument protection; Workforce Training Fund program grantees; audit improves reporting of elder abuse

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By Thursday, Oct 11, 2018 News

Pignatelli spearheads efforts to protect national monument

Boston — Rep. William “Smitty” Pignatelli, D-Lenox, House chairman of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture, led a coalition of Massachusetts legislators in sending a letter to President Trump Thursday morning, urging him to maintain protections for the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument. The letter is in response to several indications from the Trump administration this year to reopen the monument to commercial fishing operations.

The monument, protected by the Obama administration in September 2016 under the federal Antiquities Act, covers a 5,000-square-mile area approximately 130 miles off the cost of Cape Cod containing deep-sea corals, extinct volcanoes and underwater canyons all sustaining a unique array of marine wildlife. The Antiquities Act designation prevents any commercial extractive uses, including oil and gas development and commercial fishing operations, from taking place within monument borders. A total of 54 senators and representatives signed Pignatelli’s letter to the president supporting its current protected status.

“The Monument is the first and only one of its kind in the Atlantic Ocean,” Pignatelli said. “We have data to prove commercial fishing operations have not suffered in the region since the area was protected, so there is no need to lift any of the current restrictions. I’m grateful to my colleagues for joining me in the effort to preserve an important environmental landmark and I hope the current Administration will continue to maintain the Monument’s protected status.”

Late last week a federal judge denied a lawsuit brought forward by fishing associations contesting the creation of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, indicating it was within former President Obama’s presidential authority to designate and protect the land.

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Pignatelli announces Workforce Training Fund Program grantees

Lee — Rep. William “Smitty” Pignatelli, D-Lenox, has announced that Excelsior Integrated Inc. and Porchlight VNA/Homecare are each the recipient of a two-year training grant from the Workforce Training Fund Program.

Excelsior Integrated was awarded $48,750 to train 20 employees and anticipates adding four jobs by 2020. Porchlight was awarded $22,504 to train 20 employees and anticipates adding 15 jobs by 2020.

Administered by the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development in partnership with Commonwealth Corporation, the Workforce Training Fund Program invests to help local Massachusetts companies create new jobs, increase skills and opportunities for workers, and improve overall productivity and competitiveness for businesses in the Commonwealth. EOLWD and Commonwealth Corporation review and award training grants of up to $250,000 to Massachusetts businesses to fund training for current and newly hired employees. Grants are awarded on a rolling basis throughout the year.

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Audit leads to improved reporting of instances of elder abuse

Boston — After a report by State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump found the Executive Office of Elder Affairs and its contractors did not always properly report serious incidents of abuse or neglect of seniors to local district attorneys, the agency reports that it is taking steps to address the problem. Bump’s audit reviewed the agency’s process for screening, investigating, documenting and reporting incidents of elder abuse. It examined the period of July 1, 2015, through June 30, 2017.

In the audit, Bump notes that seven of the 190 incidents of alleged elder abuse reviewed by her staff were not reported by agency contractors to district attorneys’ offices for investigation and possible prosecution. These incidents included bedsores, serious neglect and emotional abuse. State regulations require that serious incidents of abuse or neglect be reported to district attorneys immediately if they result in the death of a senior and within 48 hours if they do not result in death.

The audit also calls for improvements to the agency’s process of documenting reports of abuse in its database and its security protocols governing access to that database.

In its response, which is included in the audit, EOEA reports that it is taking action to address the deficiencies identified by Bump. These steps include:

  • Ensuring more regular communication with district attorneys regarding referrals of incidents of abuse and neglect;
  • Improved training for agency contractors tasked with investigating and reporting incidents of abuse or neglect;
  • Enhanced oversight of agency contractors to ensure reports of serious abuse or neglect are reported properly to district attorneys;
  • Implementation of a quality assurance process and training for documentation and investigation of reports of abuse or neglect; and
  • Improved security protections for its Adult Protective Services database.

Additionally, Bump calls on the agency to work with the Legislature to extend the time period that the agency must retain records related to unsubstantiated reports of abuse or neglect. Under current practice, EOEA removes unsubstantiated allegations of abuse or neglect and associated documentation from its computer systems one year and one day after the report is determined to be unsubstantiated. State law requires this personally identifiable information related to unsubstantiated reports be destroyed or removed within three years. The audit notes that this could create a risk that allegations of serious abuse could be removed from the agency’s database because it is determined to be unsubstantiated, when in fact the report could have warranted an investigation. It also notes that this could hinder the agency’s ability to identify repeat offenders or victims.

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