During Monday night’s action, leaders from across GBIO shared personal stories of struggles connected to these issues:
Bonny Gilbert and Michael Rubenstein, co-chairs of the GBIO Health Care Action Team, reviewed the policy goals of GBIO’s legislative campaign, and the politics it would take to win. Senate President Karen Spilka, Senator Cindy Friedman and Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders spoke of their commitment and their actions to address our issues. Both Spilka and Sudders shared their own stories of struggling with mental health care of family members.
Before the action closed in prayer, GBIO leaders committed to holding in-district meetings with members of the House of Representatives to push for legislative action in the house, with the goal of passing legislation this session.
Over 85 people from 43 guest organization, including the Boston Teachers Union, St. Cecelias Catholic Church, Unite Here Local 26 and Hyde Park Seventh Day Adventist, to name a few, joined GBIO in action. These institutions are looking to engage with GBIO, either as allies or as prospective new members, as part of GBIO’s refounding. Last May, current GBIO leaders voted to Refound GBIO by 2021, with the goal of bringing in 10-20 new institutions.
GBIO is pushing for real reform in the 2019-2020 session of the Massachusetts Legislature by:
GBIO and coalition partners recently scored our first win in this campaign - saving $140 million in prescription drug costs in the 2020 state budget.
Last October, at a gathering of 1,487 Greater Boston Interfaith Organization leaders, Somali mothers told stories of their children playing on an unfenced cliff at a local playground. In response to their organizing, City Councilor Kim Janey answered their call to become the “champion of Jeep Jones Park.” Janey organized a walk-through of the park with Boston’s Chief of Environment, Energy, and Open Space, Christopher Cook, and negotiated with the Mayor’s Office to put $100,000 for improvements to Jeep Jones Park into the city’s upcoming capital budget.
This day of action was part of a broader GBIO Health Care legislative campaign that will span the legislative session and build on past victories in health care. In this legislative campaign, GBIO is pushing for real reform in the current session of the Massachusetts Legislature by:
Massachusetts consumers and taxpayers will save over one billion dollars of healthcare costs over the next seven years as a result of price caps established in response to action by the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization (GBIO). The cost savings are based on a report by the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission, a state research agency established by a law championed by GBIO in 2012.
Beth Israel and Lahey Health Systems and a combination of 13 hospitals have been attempting to merge into a single healthcare system since the beginning of 2017. By forming the second largest healthcare system in Massachusetts, BILH believes it will be better able to compete against Partners Healthcare, the dominant healthcare system in Massachusetts. GBIO has been fighting for consumers and taxpayers to ensure that the merger would not cause a dramatic increase in costs. When the Health Policy Commission predicted that the merger would drive up healthcare costs by as much as $230 million dollars per year, GBIO challenged Attorney General Maura Healey and other state agencies to protect consumers from this outrageous increase in cost.
At a 1400-person action, held on October 22nd at the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, GBIO leaders called on Attorney General Maura Healey to fight for conditions “with teeth” in the proposed merger, to protect consumers from increasing costs and declining access, particularly for low income and communities of color.
On November 29th, she announced an unprecedented seven-year price cap to ensure that Beth Israel Lahey Health does not take advantage of its market power to increase its prices. The agreement between Attorney General Healy and BILH also addressed other GBIO demands, including improved access for the Massachusetts Medicaid population and $72 million in support of lower-cost settings for healthcare.
In an interview with WBUR radio, Bonny Gilbert, co-chair of the GBIO healthcare action team, said, "We would like to see this kind of stronger language at least be the beginnings of more constraints on Partners and some of the other health care providers." And, says Gilbert, the caps must not be allowed to expire for BILH.
WCVB Channel 5 highlighted GBIO’s involvement in this merger.
From 2009 to 2014, GBIO leaders, including then-GBIO President Rev. Hurmon Hamilton of Roxbury Presbyterian Church, fought and won a battle to replace the deteriorating Dearborn Middle School with a $73 million, state-of-the-art grade 6-12 STEM academy for students in its under-served Roxbury neighborhood.
In 2018, Rev. Hamilton returned to Boston to attend Mayor Walsh’s ribbon-cutting ceremony, but the celebration became a demand for action as key staff positions remained unfunded. Nearly 225 GBIO leaders were present to demand full funding. In response, some positions were filled and GBIO and Roxbury Presbyterian Church continue to monitor progress.
“When We Fight, We Win!”
Leaders from the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization, and allies, chanted in victory at the MA Statehouse on April 13th as Governor Baker signed a sweeping criminal justice bill into law – the first of its kind in decades. Since 2015, GBIO has fought for strong reforms by targeting four issues, designed to reduce barriers to a fair criminal justice system that have disproportionately affected poor people and people of color. All four of GBIO’s priority issues were included in the recent law:
Beverly Williams, co-chair of GBIO’s Criminal Justice Team said, “The new law is not perfect, but it is meaningful legislation for Massachusetts. Reform leaders worked tirelessly for 3 years to make this happen.” Through legislator meetings, relationship building, and a series of large actions, GBIO helped shape comprehensive Criminal Justice reform bills that, despite early resistance, passed the House and Senate by veto-proof majorities in late 2017. A reconciliation bill proceeded behind closed doors for 4 months.
The ultimate bill included GBIO’s four issues, as well as many other issues of interest to GBIO and allies. It passed unanimously in the Senate (37-0) and nearly unanimously in the House (148-5) and was signed by Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker.
Co-Chair Alan Epstein said, “It is a huge step forward for the state in our efforts to reduce mass incarceration, eliminate racial disparities, reduce costs and introduce fairness, compassion and intelligence into our criminal legal system. Everyone in Massachusetts will benefit from what we did.”
Read more here: http://baystatebanner.com/news/2018/mar/29/criminal-justice-reform-bill-turning-point-massach/
As a result, all four of GBIO’s issues were addressed in October’s ground-breaking Senate Bill CLICK HERE FOR STORY, as well as the House’s slightly more conservative November bill, described by the Boston Globe CLICK HERE FOR STORY as the house’s "most sweeping criminal justice bill in years.” Details are now being worked out in conference committee.
Beverly is most proud of GBIO’s success on mandatory minimums. “Nothing had moved on this issue for 18 years,” says Beverly. “When the Council of State Government did a study of our MA criminal justice system, back in 2016, mandatory minimums were not even under review. For us to have pushed it, and now it’s in conference, that’s a big deal!”
Beverly’s passion for this issue is deeply personal. “In my community, the reality is most young men between 18 and 25 are locked up. I could see that locking people up and punishing them, especially in low-level crimes, was not the answer.” She was determined to change a system that left many low-income people and people of color locked in a cycle of incarceration and poverty.
As Beverly became more involved in the fight for justice, she realized, “It wasn’t just about investing in the issue but about investing in myself. For me to have an impact, I had to develop my own leadership skills.” She attended an IAF regional training and built new skills by diving into the work, taking on new roles, even when she wasn’t sure she was ready. “I had to build relationships with powerful people, with people in the streets, with people I hadn’t had relationships with before. In having these relationships, in listening to other peoples’ stories and impressions and thoughts, I learned more about myself. I learned to be comfortable in uncomfortable situations.”
Although she is honored to receive the Community Champion Award, Beverly is clear that there is “still much more work to be done.” Of the House and Senate bills, she says, “if we get a major win out of this, there are going to be more people out of prisons and we need to keep fighting for them. We need to make sure they get much-needed services. We need to get them into jobs.”
In the final hours before a House vote on criminal justice reform, GBIO clergy led close to 200 of our members in a rally pushing for changes in state criminal justice laws. Majority Whip Byron Rushing thanked GBIO for the work we’ve done so far, and urged us to keep the pressure on during the last hours of debate.
Retired Judge Nancy Gertner and several House Reps joined clergy in calling for a criminal justice system that addresses racial and income disparities in sentencing, removes fees and penalties that keep people trapped in the prison system, and spends tax dollars on treating, rather than punishing low level drug offenders with addictions and/ or mental health issues.
In Boston, GBIO members Old South Church and Trinity win $6 million from developer Boston Properties
When Boston Properties announced plans for a new $1 billion development, Old South Church and Trinity opposed the project, citing the Massachusetts Historic Commission’s ruling that new shadows from the high-rise could damage their historic buildings. After leveraging these concerns in negotiations with the developer, the two churches – both members of the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization -- have won $6 million from Boston Properties: $3 million for the two churches for historic preservation and another $3 million for a citywide fund for affordable homeownership programs. GBIO plans to keep pushing for more homeownership funding from big developments.