LUDLOW — State Sen. Jake Oliveira (D-Ludlow) led a group of his fellow lawmakers on a “Sena-Tour” of the Pioneer Valley, highlighting areas of his district, including Belchertown and the Ludlow Mills.

The April 30 excursion took members of state leadership through the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Cold Springs Orchard to the historic Ludlow Mills Complex, showcasing areas of growth and potential expansion in the region.

The tour, part of a series of state outings for lawmakers, included Senate President Karen Spilka (D-Ashland), Majority Leader Cynthia Creem (D-Newton), Assistant Majority Leader Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett) and Assistant Majority Leader Michael Barrett (D-Lexington).

“We have 40 distinct districts here in Massachusetts,” Oliveira said. “We wanted to show other senators who might not be from our area, some of the projects, especially the public-private partnerships that we’re working on within our districts and also give them a flavor of what our districts feel like.”

Oliveira said the day began with an agricultural look at UMass Amherst’s testing facility which efforts defenses against climate change, including adversaries such as late frosts and invasive species.

The tour moved to the Ludlow Mills, the industrial area of the district where Oliveira pointed out the ongoing development of the 130-acre site owned and managed by Westmass, the outing concluded at Iron Duke Brewing where Baystate Health CEO, Dr. Mark Keroack presented a look at the current state of healthcare in Western Massachusetts.

“Baystate Health is my largest private employer in my district and the largest private employer in Western Massachusetts,” Oliveira noted. “We’re all very tightknit with how important Baystate Health is for the economy of the region but also the important role that it plays for some of the neediest of our commonwealth’s residents, particularly right now as we’re tackling rising healthcare costs.”

Keroack, who is set to retire in July, provided a glimpse of current happenings while offering his appreciation to state Senate members for their support related to legislation that impacted healthcare across the five Baystate hospital campuses, including the flagship academic medical center in Springfield.

“Right now, we’ve grown dramatically in the last 10 to 15 years and we provide about 65% of the healthcare in the Pioneer Valley,” he said, highlighting Baystate’s affiliation with UMass Medical School as well as their trauma care, vascular and heartcare facilities.

“In Sen. Oliveira’s district is one of our community hospitals, Baystate Wing,” Keroack said, pointing out that while many community facilities are struggling financially, curtailing services and in some cases, closing their doors, Baystate’s community hospitals are full, busy and profitable.

Keroack emphasized Baystate’s commitment to the underserved in the community, stating the facilities handle five times the Medicaid services as the next closet provider in Western Massachusetts and have recently entered into partnerships, including a large undertaking in behavioral health services.

Dissecting the cost structures that Medicaid covers for healthcare services, Keroack detailed a $150 million gap between the cost of Medicaid and the amount Baystate recoups for providing care, with Medicaid making up 25% percent of the overall patient base. He urged the group of lawmakers to look favorably on pending legislation that could potentially help in narrowing that gap.

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