Barrett named to posts on health disparities, adoption, early ed.

Local State Sen. Mike Barrett has been named to three special committees -- one looking to improve health disparities across different populations, another finding fixes in the state adoption process, the third looking at ways to increase early education access.

The Health Disparities Council, created in 2006, looks for solutions to health care inequalities.  The council includes hospitals, insurance companies, community health centers, the Mass. Medical Society, among others.

Originally charged with examining racial and ethnic disparities, the council’s statute was expanded earlier this year to include people with disabilities thanks to a successful budget amendment inserted by Barrett, Senate Chair of the Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities.

“On the whole, people with disabilities smoke at a higher rate and have higher obesity numbers,” said Barrett, a health care IT specialist by profession.  “When you dig deeper, you’ll see this population also has a harder time seeing doctors due to high costs.”

According to the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, 13% of disabled Massachusetts residents report getting to a doctor is prohibitively expensive, compared to 6% of people without a disability.  While the gap is small relative to other states, Barrett says more can be done.

When people with disabilities do get to the doctor’s office, Barrett says, they face further challenges.

Earlier this year, a survey of more than 250 specialists in major American cities found that fewer than 10% of offices had equipment such as height-adjustable examining tables or specially trained employees.

Barrett has also been appointed to a newly formed adoption task force which will recommend ways to reduce costs and delays in the adoption process.  The task force, led by the Commissioner of the Dept. of Children and Families Olga Roche, will consult with Chief Justices of the Probate and Family and Juvenile Courts.

Adoption expenses consist of home study and legal fees, among other costs.  The Massachusetts Adoption Resource Exchange, which finds permanent homes for children in foster care, recently announced it placed 183 children in homes over the past year.

Barrett is serving on the recently created Early Education and Care Commission as well.  The group will study the high costs of early education and care services and look at ways to expand access.

According to Early Education for All, 40% of pre-school aged children in Massachusetts aren’t enrolled in an early education program.  “16% of kids who aren’t reading at a proficient level when they finish third grade end up not graduating from high school on time,” Barrett said.  “We should be investing in their future from an early age.”

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