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The concept of bullying has increasingly become a widespread issue affecting many individuals in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, especially elders and those with disabilities. In order to resolve bullying in public and/or subsidized housing, all members who are affiliated with the housing community must be involved all the way from the land lords, to management and staff, and to the residents.  Because bullying has become a growing and infectious issue, a commission has been created by the Massachusetts Legislature and signed into law by Governor Baker in order to inevitably protect the lives of elderly and disabled persons.

The commission convenes at Ashburton Place

Chaired by Linn Torto, the Commission to Study Ways to Prevent Bullying of Tenants in Public and Subsidized Multi-family Housing is made up of nineteen members. These members come from the offices of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, Attorney General, Housing and Community Development, as well as the joint committees on Elder Affairs and Mental Health and Substance Abuse, many members of the Commission represent community stakeholders.  For example, at least eight Commission members represent housing authorities, trade associations and consumer protection advocacy organizations, such as the Massachusetts Association of Independent Living Centers, Inc., Jewish Family and Children’s Service, Inc., the Massachusetts Alliance of HUD Tenants, the Massachusetts Union of Public Housing Tenants, MassNAHRO and the Stop Bullying Coalition, and legal services organizations, such as the Disability Law Center.

They met for the first time today, May 25, 2017, to discuss how they will investigate and study the prevalence and impact of the bullying of tenants who are elderly and/or disabled. During this investigation they will: Investigate and study the prevalence and impact of the bullying of tenants, Identify the conditions that give rise to and cause bullying and researching successful methods for preventing bullying in other contexts, research successful methods to prevent bullying in places like nursing homes, assisted living facilities, schools, and housing, Identify and disseminate best practices and consider how a public awareness campaign can be developed to raise the awareness of this important topic.  This review will culminate in a report where the Commission will propose public policy recommendations and legislation that is necessary in regards to protect individuals from harm.

The Commission understands the importance of hearing from the lived experiences of people in various public and subsidized housing locations.  Therefore, it was decided at the first Commission meeting to use three pathways to hear from consumers directly: 1)  The Commission will hold at least four public meetings in various locations throughout the Commonwealth; 2) the Commission will seek out existing organizations impacted by these issues to attend ongoing meetings in order to collect feedback; and lastly; 3) the Commission will establish a webpage dedicated to work of the Commission to allow for interested parties to sign up for notifications, publishing meeting information, as well as, potentially posting documents for comment.

The Commission will have until December 31, 2017 to report the findings of the investigation to the as well as the proposed recommendations in order to resolve the bullying of elders and disabled persons.

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