Massachusetts State Rep. Chris Hendricks (D-New Bedford) has recently filed legislation on Beacon Hill that will expand MassHealth coverage to include violence prevention services for victims of violent crime and expand Hospital Violence Intervention Programs (HVIP).

MassHealth is the Commonwealth's state program that delivers the healthcare services provided by Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which provide federally subsidized healthcare for individuals with low-income.

Hendricks said many of the victims of violent crime or what is often referred to as "community violence" – such as shootings, stabbings, beatings, or gang violence – usually have treatment for their physical injuries covered by MassHealth.

According to Hendricks, however, the statistics show that a victim of community violence, if they survive their injuries, is likely to return to the circumstances that led them to becoming a victim in the first place.

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HVIPs and other violence intervention programs can play a key role in helping an individual escape the cycle of community violence. Hendricks said it is most effective to begin this programming in the hospital after receiving medical services.

"When someone is seeking (emergency care) for a violent act, treatment in the emergency room, in urgent care, is the best way to reduce the likelihood of more violence," Hendricks said in an appearance on WBSM's SouthCoast Tonight.

Though the treatments for the physical injuries an individual sustains from community violence is covered by MassHealth, violence prevention programs are reliant on sporadic grant funding from the state.

Along with expanding HVIPs, Hendricks' bill will codify into law Medicaid coverage for violence prevention programs. Thus, instead of relying on grant funding, trauma centers will be able to bill Medicaid for providing these types of programs for victims of community violence.

"Medical staff people and trusted community partners will be there in emergency rooms to deliver care and resources to people," Hendricks said.

President Joe Biden has called on states implement these coverages into their Medicaid guidelines. If Hendricks' legislation passes, Massachusetts will become the third state behind Illinois and Connecticut to do so.

Hendricks said he has been in discussions with his fellow lawmakers to gather support for the legislation. He has early support from Roca, a Boston-based urban youth intervention organization with locations across Massachusetts and the Northeast.

Roca Founder and CEO Molly Baldwin told WBSM that communities such as New Bedford will benefit greatly from the passage of this legislation and it will be a net benefit for all residents of the Commonwealth.

“Representative Hendricks’ proposal to expand Medicaid to cover violence prevention programs is a tremendous opportunity for Massachusetts and especially Gateway Cities like New Bedford," Baldwin said. "This legislation would bring tens of millions of additional federal funding to our state, create savings for state taxpayers within the Medicaid program, and provide more resources and training for those working on the front lines to engage high-risk young people, reduce levels of violence and save and change lives.”

Hendricks said that his next steps will be working with legislative leaders to determine which committees will hold hearings on the bill. The bill's docket number and title is HD 2549An Act relative to using Medicaid for violence prevention and intervention.

Listen to Rep. Chris Hendricks on SouthCoast Tonight:

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