A Look at Massachusetts, by the Numbers

How many tourists visit Massachusetts each year? 28,824,000, with 26,700,000 of them domestic and 2,124,000 international.

How much do they impact our economy? By $18.8-billion. That's broken down like this: visitor spending at $11.3-billion, travel-related payrolls at $3.1-billion, travel related jobs number 141,000, state tax revenues are $442-million and local tax revenues, $261-million.

What do they spend their money on? By percentage, 35 percent for public transportation, 22 percent for lodging, 18 percent for food, 10 percent for car transportation, 9 percent for general shopping, and 6 percent for entertainment and recreation.

How do you define a visitor? Someone who stays overnight in paid accommodations, or who travels at least 50 miles one way.

How many people in Westfield have AIDs? Just 39, but it's up from 36 a year ago. Statewide, 14,672 have the disease, compared with 13,963 a year ago.

How about Alzheimers? 130,000 individuals in Massachusetts are dealing with the disease. In my district, there are 13 in Montgomery, and 867 in Westfield in the dementia population.

Why is this important? Because, as our population ages, and because there is no cure, today's baby-boomers will live longer than any previous generation, but will also experience Alzheimers disease in numbers certain to overwhelm our health care system.

What is Alzheimers? A fatal, degenerative disease of the brain for which there is currently no cure. People slowly lose their abilities to remember, think, communicate and care for themselves. Dementia can also be caused by illnesses like Parkinson's and Huntington's.

Children in 114,000 families in the Commonwealth have a parent who cannot read aloud to them. Illiteracy.

There are 3,000 annual emergency room visits for playground-related falls in Massachusetts. There are five injuries on public playgrounds for every one injury in backyard play areas.

The legislature's children's caucus reports that, every day in Massachusetts, 220 babies are born, 16 teens give birth, 44 babies are born to women who did not receive adequate prenatal care, 15 babies are born at low birthweights of less than 5 pounds 5 ounces, and another 3 are born at very low weights, less than 3 pounds 3 ounces.

Also, every day in Massachusetts, one baby dies before one month of life, one baby dies before their first birthday.

And, every day in Massachusetts, 4,200 school-age children are homeless, 75 children are abused or neglected, 118 children witness domestic violence, 23 teens drop out of school.

Why all the talk about open space these days? Because, since 1945, some 1.3-million acres of Massachusetts farmland have been lost. Because, between 1986 and 1996, some 13,000 acres were converted from agriculture or open space to residential use.

So what? Well, each year, with 200,000 acres lost to development, we'll see increased water and air pollution, fewer recreational opportunities, loss of historic character, overburdening of infrastructure and public services, loss of personal privacy and loss of wildlife, according to the Community Preservation Coalition.

In Westfield, 544 people sought help for alcohol and drug abuse in publicly funded treatment programs last year. Most, 465, sought help in dealing with alcohol. Followed up by marijuana, heroin, cocaine, and crack. Many have multiple addictions.

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