CANTON, Mass. — The Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA) recently honored state representatives Peter Koutoujian (D – Weston), Vincent Pedone (D-Worcester), Ellen Story (D-Amherst), Jennifer Callahan (D-Sutton) and Robert Coughlin (D-Dedham) for their respective contributions to the profession of nursing and health care policy at the organization’s annual Awards Dinner.
Representatives Koutoujian, Pedone and Story were co-recipients of the MNA’s Legislator of the Year Award, which is given annually to a Senior Massachusetts State Legislator or Federal Legislator who has clearly demonstrated exceptional contributions to nursing and healthcare. Representatives Callahan and Coughlin received MNA’s Frank M. Hynes Award, which is given annually to a deserving Massachusetts freshman state legislator or municipal official who clearly demonstrates exceptional contributions to nursing and healthcare. Established in 1993, the award is named for Frank M. Hynes, D-Marshfield, a state representative and long time champion of nursing issues in the legislature.
"Each of these legislators have been recognized this year by the MNA for their efforts to engage in legislative activity causes that improve the quality of health care, as well as improve access to care for the residents of the Commonwealth," said Karen Higgins RN, president of the MNA. "All share a commitment to protecting a nurse’s right to advocate on behalf of their patients, a deep understanding of the important role nurses play in the delivery of quality patient care, and a commitment to stand up for nurses and patient’s access to appropriate nursing care.."
Representative Peter Koutoujian (D-Weston/Waltham), who currently serves as House Chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care was recognized for being an "outstanding leader in health care, violence prevention and the rights of the mentally ill and mentally disabled," Higgins said.
In 2001, as a member of the Joint Committee on Health Care, he supported SB 1979, which would require pharmaceutical companies to disclose their expenditures for mass media direct-to-consumer advertising in an effort to decrease prescription costs. Representative Koutoujian was one of the driving forces that kept Waltham Hospital open and secured needed funds for the hospital when no one else could. He also played a pivotal role during the recent state budget debate, helping to stop efforts by the Romney administration to close the Fernald Center in Waltham, along with other state-run facilities that care for severely disabled adults with mental retardation. He has been an outspoken delegate to both the Governor’s Commission on Domestic Violence and the Massachusetts Violence Prevention Task Force and now leads a statewide coalition of Male Legislators Against Domestic Violence. Koutoujian is also co-sponsor of HB-1282, a bill filed by MNA to regulate RN-to-patient ratios in Massachusetts hospitals.
According to Higgins, Rep. Pedone (D-Worcester) was recognized by MNA for being "a tireless advocate for patients, their care, and the labor force who provide that care." Before and during the historic 49-day St. Vincent Hospital nurses strike in 2000, Pedone played a pivotal role in supporting both patients and nurses and was a constant presence on the picket lines. Most recently, Representative Pedone successfully led a coalition of health care professionals, labor leaders, family members and advocates for the mentally ill, community activists, and legislators to save Worcester State Hospital, introducing and facilitating the passage of an amendment to the state budget to prevent closing the facility. He is also a sponsor and strong advocate of the MNA’s safe staffing legislation, and is also the lead sponsor of latex allergy legislation – an issue of great importance to the health and safety of nurses and health professionals.
Rep. Ellen Story (D-Amherst), who serves on the Committee of the Caucus of Women Legislators and is a founding member of the Mental Health Caucus, was honored for her years of advocacy to insure that people receive proper health care coverage and for her continuous efforts to improve the quality of life for children, elders, the physically challenged, mentally ill and veterans. In recent years, Story worked to save the Holyoke Soldiers Home and this year was a leader in the fight to to preserve funding for the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Program, which provides training to emergency department nurses who specialize in working with victims of sexual assault and in gathering evidence to support prosecution of perpetrators. She has also been a leader in the struggle to provide affordable prescription drugs for seniors.
Rep. Jennifer Callahan (D-Sutton), is herself a registered nurse and long-standing and active member of the MNA, having worked at the bedside at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. While a freshman legislator, Callahan has taken a leadership role in moving the MNA’s legislation to improve registered nurse staffing, using her experience and standing as a nurse to encourage fellow legislators to sign onto our bill, while working closely with the Joint Committee on Health Care. She has worked closely with the MNA in educating other new legislators about the Safe Staffing Bill, including hosting a legislative briefing for freshman legislators.
Rep. Robert Coughlin (D-Dedham) is a freshman legislator and a member of the Joint Committee on Health Care who has has clearly articulated his support for nurses and his tenure has been marked by his concern about nursing and health care. A co-sponsor of HB-1282, as well as being a member on the board of trustees of local hospitals in his district, he has made the MNA’s Safe Staffing Legislation one of his priorities and has helped the MNA to educate other legislators about the bill.