August 11, 2017

Senators Collins, Coons introduce bipartisan bill to end preventable maternal and childhood deaths



Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Chris Coons (D-DE) introduced the Reach Every Mother and Child Act to strengthen U.S. government efforts to end preventable deaths of mothers, newborns, and young children in developing nations around the world.  

Every day, approximately 800 women, almost entirely from developing countries, die from
preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth, and the risk of a woman dying in childbirth is 47 times higher in Africa than in the United States. In addition, more than 16,000 children under five years old will die each day of treatable conditions.

“Although progress has been made in improving the health of mothers and children, it is a tragedy that so many preventable deaths still occur,” said Senator Collins. “By supporting simple, proven, and cost-effective interventions, our bipartisan legislation will improve the health and well-being of mothers and children in developing countries and bring us closer to achieving the goal of ending preventable maternal and child deaths worldwide.”

“For too many women and families, pregnancy and childbirth are risky, life-threatening conditions that are filled with stress rather than joy and expectation,” said Senator Coons. “The Reach Act directs USAID to deliver a comprehensive strategy that prioritizes cost-effective, proven interventions to prevent these tragic deaths. This bipartisan bill will bring relief to mothers who can safely carry, deliver, and raise their newborns knowing that the care they need is now available."

The United States has been a global leader in reaching mothers and children in developing countries with life-saving interventions, including skill birth attendants, basic resuscitation options for newborns, vaccinations, and other cost-effective, evidence-based interventions.
The Reach Act has been endorsed by CARE International, PATH, RESULTS, Save the Children Action Network, and World Vision. The bill would provide the focus and tools necessary to accelerate progress toward ending preventable maternal and child deaths by:
Establishing the goal of ending preventable maternal, newborn, and child deaths by 2030;
Requiring the Administration to implement a strategy to achieve this goal by scaling up the most-effective evidence-based interventions;

Permitting USAID greater flexibility to use “pay-for-success” financing models where foreign aid is only expended for results rather than inputs, and
 establishing a permanent Maternal and Child Survival Coordinator at USAID who would be focused on implementing the strategy and verify that the most effective interventions are scaled up in target countries.



Saint Joseph’s College Establishes Science Scholars Program with National Science Foundation Funding


[Standish, Maine] - President James Dlugos announced that Saint Joseph’s College of Maine has been awarded a five-year $647,000 grant, from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to fund the Saint Joseph’s College Science Scholars Program. This is a program designed to encourage academically-talented students, who have demonstrated the need of financial assistance, to enter into and succeed in a community of young scientists. The Saint Joseph’s College Grant Award–from the S-STEM NSF Program–is the only award of this nature in the state this year and the largest of its kind in Maine, to date. The grant, which recognizes the College’s innovative science education programming, provides considerable scholarship aid, ranging from $5,000 to $7,200 per year for each of the recipients’ four years in college. The first group of Saint Joseph’s College Science Scholars will be selected from first-year students entering in the fall of 2018 who are committed to studying in a range of science fields, including: chemistry, biology, environmental science, biochemistry, and marine science. 
 
“In today’s rapidly changing world, education in science, technology, engineering, and math has never been more important,” said Senators Susan Collins and Angus King in a joint statement. “This grant will be instrumental in giving students the opportunity to pursue promising STEM careers and become the next generation of trailblazers in their respective fields. Saint Joseph’s College has been a leader in equipping students with the skills they need to succeed in the 21st century, and we are pleased that these scholarships will provide more motivated, young people with access to this quality education.”

The selected Saint Joseph’s College Science Scholars will benefit from receiving:

Four years of scholarship support at levels ranging from $5,000 to $7,200 each of four years;

One-week field experience prior to the freshman fall;

Use of a laptop for four years;

Science Scholar seminars, conferences, and research experiences;
 
Support from faculty and upperclassmen mentors.

About the award, President James Dlugos, Ph.D. said, “This National Science Foundation Grant allows us to recruit and graduate some of the best science students from New England and beyond. With these funds, we can offer greater access to higher education in the sciences, offer an innovative approach to science career development, and help meet the growing workforce needs in STEM fields. 
Since the college has built new science laboratories this past year, it’s an opportune time for students to consider studying science at Saint Joseph’s College.”

Dr. Steven Jury, Assistant Professor of Biology and Principal Investigator on the grant said, “We are excited to have the opportunity to recruit excellent science students with diverse backgrounds and have them choose our Science Scholars Program. With our access to Sebago Lake, the Gulf of Maine, the White Mountains, and coastal estuaries, Saint Joseph’s College students not only study science, but will work as a community of scientists in the lab and field. We’re confident that our Science Scholars Program can serve as a model for other programs across the country.”

Dr. Johan Erikson, Associate Professor of Environmental Sciences and Co-Principal Investigator
said, “Our students are securing jobs in the science field as soon as they graduate; jobs in water quality science, biomedical chemistry labs, and environmental science fieldwork positions. And yet, we need more students. We have biomedical corporations approach us and ask, ‘How can we increase the pipeline of science students who are available to recruit? We are having trouble filling available positions.’ Nationally, there is a shortage of critical thinkers and problem solvers in the science fields. We are trying to address this by creating a new model for science education at the college level.”

Dr. Marion Young, Assistant Professor of Psychology and Co-Principal Investigator on the grant said, “The Science Scholars Program fosters building a community of scientists, helping science students to become part of a team, part of something even bigger than the College. This project fits well with both Saint Joseph’s College’s core value of engaging community and the Sisters of Mercy’s critical concern for the environment.” As the social scientist on the grant, Dr. Young will research the impact of science students’ participation in the grant-funded program, including their persistence through the four-year college experience and after graduation.

For more information about the scholarship criteria and application process, see www.sjcme.edu/science or contact the Saint Joseph’s College Admissions Office at 800-338-7057 or admissions@sjcme.edu.

New law will help more Mainers get arsenic out of their water by Senator Bill Diamond


Did you know that here in Cumberland County, more than 17 percent of wells are estimated to contain dangerously high levels of arsenic? Or, that statewide, roughly 100,000 people have arsenic in their drinking water at levels above the federal safety standard?


I believe that in today’s world, with all the technological advances at our disposal, there’s no good reason that a single Mainer should have hazardous toxins flowing out of their faucet when they turn on the tap. That’s why I was pleased to support legislation, now a law that allocates additional funding to promote and ensure affordable, safe drinking water.

The EPA calls arsenic one of the most dangerous toxins on earth. This poison is linked with bladder, skin and lung cancer. It’s particularly dangerous for children, whose brain development can suffer when exposed to arsenic over time.

Technology allows us to treat contaminated water, filtering out arsenic and other toxins before the water ends up in our saucepans or drinking glasses. But the cost can be prohibitive for some families. Home treatment systems can cost between $1,200 and $3,000, and high levels of contamination require even more costly filtration, with installation running as high as $12,000. For many families, that price tag puts safe drinking water out of reach.

But the high-cost of treatment systems isn’t the only barrier. Despite the shocking rate of contamination, many Mainers are unaware that their wells are even at risk. Fewer than half of well owners in Maine have tested their water supplies. Testing is the first step to guarantee clean water, but it’s a step that far too few of us are taking.

That’s what makes the bill we passed this year such a good policy. It allocates $500,000 to the Maine State Housing Authority to help eligible low-income families treat their contaminated water. And it allows the Authority to use some of that new money to fund public education efforts that will help spread awareness of the risk posed by arsenic, and the resources available to help. Even though the bill addresses the financial needs of low-income families, contaminated water affects the health of families from all income levels and if you use well water please have it tested as soon as possible. If you need help contact the Maine Housing Authority.

The Authority has helped eligible low-income families treat their contaminated well water for years, but before this bill was enacted, its funding was running low. It had only enough money to assist about 200 households with water treatment. We know there are far more than that who need help.
The Legislature passed the bill in July, but Gov. Paul LePage vetoed it in August.  Budgets are always tough, and there’s never enough money to do everything we might like. But protecting Maine children from toxins in their homes must be a priority. No one in our state should suffer the effects of poison in their drinking water simply because their families can’t afford the expensive systems needed to make their water safe.

I’m pleased to report that my colleagues in the Legislature agreed with me. On August 2, overwhelming bipartisan majorities voted to overturn the governor’s veto and pass the new water treatment bill into law despite his objections.

Now the bill will become law, and the funding for the Authority will be made available on November 1. I urge you to test your well if you haven’t already done so. You can visit www.maine.gov/dhhs/mecdc/environmental-health/eohp/wells/mewellwater.htm for information about how to test, or visit mainehousing.org for info on financial assistance for arsenic abatement.

I’d also be happy to help you navigate the process. As always, feel free to contact me at diamondhollyd@aol.com or (207) 287-1515, with any questions or concerns about this or any other important issue facing our state.


Everything is GaGa at Windham Christian Academy by Lorraine Glowczak


Windham Christian Academy (WCA) at 1051 Roosevelt Trail recently added to their playground equipment, a new GaGa Ball Pit. GaGa, a fun and easy game that is growing in popularity among young children, will add recess and physical activity options for the elementary and middle school students at WCA this coming fall. However, it has turned out to add more than an entertainment element.

High School Students help build the GaGa Pit

The story of the new GaGa Ball Pit began with an early summer trip to New Jersey where the Principal of WCA, Jaclyn Sands, was visiting her family for a few days. 

“I decided to take my children to a playground during my visit and that is where I saw this amazing GaGa Ball Pit,” explained Sands. “Seeing it at that playground and how much fun the kids were having sparked the thought that it would be a good addition to our playground at WCA. So I approached our Pastor, Tony Searles, with the idea. He told me if I could find a way to get the required lumber needed to build the pit, he would give the green light.”

As always seems to be the case for most schools, funding or the lack thereof, can create a challenge on the road from idea to reality. As Sands share her idea with other WCA staff members, part-time Spanish Teacher, Steve Pratt thought he might have an idea to get the required lumber needed. It just so happens that Pratt also works full-time at Hancock Lumber.

“Steve approached Hancock Lumber to see if they might consider making a small donation,” Sands explained. “They didn’t hesitate. They gave us all the lumber that was required to build the pit”
The next step and challenge included the time and effort it took to build the octagonal shaped play area. Industrial Arts Teacher and Director of Maintenance, Bob Berry, was willing to take time from his regular busy schedule to construct the pit but he could not do it himself. “I called on the high school students to see if they would be up to help out,” said Berry. “They were there to assist immediately.”

What began as a simple idea to help expand the WCA playground, turned into a community effort of giving and support.

Hancock Lumber shared a statement in regards to their contribution to the GaGa Ball Pit. “Helping support Windham Christian Academy by donating building materials is an extension of who Hancock Lumber is. A core part of our mission is to support local area organizations—Team Hancock is proud to be involved in our surrounding communities.” 

Regarding the popularity of this new favorite pastime, GaGa, "became popular among Jewish camps during the 1970's and has seen a huge resurgence recently at camps, schools, and youth activity centers outside of the Jewish community. GaGa actually translates from Hebrew as "touch-touch" and is a variation on dodgeball. To some it is known as Israeli Dodgeball, Octo-Ball, or Panda Ball. It is commonly believed that the game was brought to the U.S. Jewish summer camps by Israeli camp counselors.” (Gagaballpit.com)

The purpose of the game is to eliminate opponents by hitting them with the ball below the knee (or
waist) while trying to avoid being hit yourself. The game can include a large number of children at one time and is a fast-paced, high energy game that keeps children interested for hours at a time.

The benefits of the game include the development of multiple physical skills, strategic thinking and hand-eye coordination all the while keeping children physically active.

As for the high school students who gave a few days of their summer to help build a fun space for the younger students at WCA,  Berry used the time wisely to teach them about the importance of realizing a dream. “I’m always teaching my students that whatever they put their mind to, with the Lord’s help, they can accomplish anything.”

What began as a simple idea on a New Jersey playground became real, as a result a community of individuals who went above and beyond their call of duty. It’s almost as if the idea of the pit itself became a game of “touch-touch”, where one step touched another until it became reality.

August 4, 2017

Sen. Diamond laments House vote to block ban on handheld devices while driving

AUGUSTA —A bill to increase the safety of Maine’s roads and highways by banning the use of handheld devices by drivers was defeated Wednesday after the House of Representatives upheld a veto by Gov. Paul LePage.

The bill — sponsored by Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham — would have banned the use of handheld devices, except to communicate with law enforcement or emergency responders. It would have allowed the use of hands-free devices, devices secured to the dashboard, and cellphones set to a hands-free mode. Maine law already prohibits texting while driving, but other uses of handheld devices are legal. That discrepancy makes enforcement of the anti-texting law nearly impossible.

“As cellphones and other electronic devices become more and more ubiquitous, our roads are
becoming more and more dangerous,” said Sen. Diamond. “The research is in: Distracted driving, particularly driving while using a mobile device, increases the likelihood of accidents and motor vehicle fatalities. I’m disappointed that this law has been defeated, but we’ll keep trying to do the right thing and make Maine safer for motorists, pedestrians and anyone who uses our roads.”

Pat Moody from the American Automobile Association (AAA) testified in favor of the bill earlier this year, saying that the current spike in highway fatalities is directly attributable to cell phone use. Additionally, use of any handheld device quadruples the chance of a traffic accident. The AAA enthusiastically supports the bill.  

https://www.egcu.org/autoThe bill, LD 1089, was enacted by the Legislature on July 20 and vetoed by Gov. Paul LePage on August 1. On Wednesday, the Senate overrode the governor’s veto with a 24-10 vote, more than the two-thirds threshold needed for the bill to become law over LePage’s objection. The House killed the
bill when 54 members voted to uphold the veto.


Senators Collins, Carper Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Spur Emerging Offshore Wind Industry



Bill makes investment tax credit permanent for first 3,000 megawatts of new offshore turbine

Washington, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Tom Carper (D-DE) introduced the Incentivizing Offshore Wind Power Act, which would provide critical financial incentives to encourage investment in offshore wind energy. This bipartisan bill would create an investment tax credit that is redeemable for the first 3,000 megawatts of offshore wind facilities placed into service, amounting to approximately 600 wind turbines.

In the past, Congress has offered a temporary credit for investments in wind power, but the last extension of this credit will expire before December 31, 2019. This credit has been a lifeline to the nascent offshore wind industry. The Incentivizing Offshore Wind Power Act would give the industry the certainty needed to plan investments and maximize deployment of this clean power technology.

“Maine is a leader in the emerging offshore wind industry, which holds great potential for the future of clean energy and the creation of good jobs,” said Senator Collins. “By giving private sector companies the certainty they need, our legislation will help accelerate the development of this promising industry in America and create a new, sustainable source of domestic power.”

https://www.schoolspring.com/search.cfm
“Offshore wind energy has the potential to power every home, school and business from Florida to Maine with clean, renewable energy,” said Senator Carper. “Investing in new offshore wind projects spurs economic growth and has the potential to create millions of good-paying American jobs. It also helps enhance our national security by encouraging domestic energy production and protects our environment and public health by deploying a cleaner source of energy. I’m proud to partner with Senator Collins to provide this growing industry the certainty it needs to draw private sector investments in new offshore wind facilities across the country. Making smart investments to move us closer to energy independence is a win-win-win for our economy, our security, our health and our planet.”

The legislation defines offshore facilities as any facility located in the inland navigable waters of the United States, including the Great Lakes, or in the coastal waters of the United States, including the territorial seas of the United States, the exclusive economic zone of United States, and the outer Continental Shelf of the United States.

Joining Senators Collins and Carper are Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Angus King (I-Maine), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).




Windham brothers win Ultimate Imagination Build-Off Challenge at LEGOLAND Discovery Center Boston

Winners, Nathan and Benjamin
Windham brothers Nathan and Benjamin Lydon were the winners of the Ultimate Imagination Build-Off Challenge held at LEGOLAND Discovery Center Boston, July 15 through 16 and July 22 through 23. The Ultimate Imagination Build-Off Challenge pits kids versus grown-up in a LEGO build challenge to see who can be the most creative.
 

 The brothers competed with their Dad, David Lydon, when they came to visit the Discovery Center on July 15. Their builds were chosen and competed against other kids and grown-ups that won challenges on the other build dates.

The Lydon brothers intended to only visit LEGOLAND for the day. “We traveled to Boston to go to LEGOLAND, thinking our sons who both love building Legos, were going to take a class,” explained Katherine Lydon. “We didn’t realize that we had entered a competition instead.”

Nathan and his dad, David
The challenge tasked participants with building a creation straight from their imagination - no limits, no boundaries, and no rules – just pure creativity! The five-minute challenge, which sees kids compete with grown-ups, were mediated and judged bystaff who decided who had the winning imagination.

After competing on both weekends and making it to the final rounds, the brothers discovered they were winners through an email their Dad received on July 28.

“When they discovered they were the winners,” Lydon continued, “Nathan, who is obsessed with Lego building, was so excited he had a difficult time going to sleep that evening.”

http://betheinfluencewrw.org/index.htmlLEGOLAND Discovery Center Boston, Master Model Builder Megan Amaral was the judge and said, "I loved the explanations behind why Nathan and Benjamin created what they did. It’s the stories the two created to get the build just right, every piece played a role. This challenge really brought out their creativity and fun."

 “LEGOLAND Discovery Centers are designed to provide LEGO play experiences that power creativity and learning through shared LEGO fun for adults and children,” said Amaral. “We are thrilled to see the energy and imagination that went into the challenge from both kids and adults and look forward to welcoming families to LEGOLAND Discovery Center Boston to have a go.”

The brothers, who are both students at Windham Primary School, will win tickets to the attraction and a private build session with Amaral.

NIH States $597 Million in Additional FY 2019 Funding Needed for Alzheimer's Research



Budget analysis estimates resources needed to meet research goals of the National Alzheimer’s Project Act, authored by Senator Collins, in 2011

Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senator Susan Collins, the Chairman of the Senate Aging Committee, released the following statement after the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced today that $597 million in additional FY 2019 funds will be needed to meet the goal of preventing or effectively treating Alzheimer’s by 2025. This goal was established by the National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease, which was created under the National Alzheimer’s Project Act (NAPA), authored by Senator Collins and then-Senator Evan Bayh (D-IN), in 2011.

“Every 66 seconds, someone in America develops Alzheimer’s disease. The disease is devastating to said Senator Collins.

Individuals and their families, and it is deadly. Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. It is the only one of our nation’s most deadly diseases without an effective means of prevention, treatment, or a cure,”

"In addition to the human suffering it causes, Alzheimer’s costs the United States an estimated $259 billion a year, including $175 billion in costs to Medicare and Medicaid, yet we are spending just a fraction of that amount on research. While we have made significant progress, today’s announcement indicates that we must continue to do more to meet the goals we established through the National Alzheimer’s Project Act – to achieve a world in which Alzheimer’s can be treated effectively, cured, or prevented by 2025.”

This year, NIH is committing $1.414 billion to Alzheimer’s disease and dementia research, compared to just $503 million in FY 2012. Earlier this year, Senator Collins led a bipartisan letter to the President, urging him to continue making Alzheimer’s and dementia research at NIH a top priority.

https://www.egcu.org/homeApproximately 5.4 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease today, including 37,000 in Maine. It has been estimated that nearly one out of two of the baby boomer generation reaching 85 will develop Alzheimer's if our current trajectory is not altered.