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2 more towns want to join regional health district

Shelburne, Leyden would make 10

The Cooperative Public Health Service — a regional health district based in the Franklin Regional Council of Governments that provides services to eight towns — has applied for a state grant that would allow it to expand into Shelburne and Leyden.

Established this July, the regional health district pools resources and seeks out grants that will benefit the health of individuals in participating communities.

A grant that is currently funding the services will run out in June, and so the district has applied for a new nine-month $68,817 “community innovation challenge” grant from the state’s executive office of administration and finance, said Phoebe Walker, director of community services for FRCOG.

The health district works with local boards of health, concentrating on four main areas of service: housing and summer camp inspections, food safety inspections, septic maintenance and public health nursing.

Health Agent Glen Ayres facilitates inspections, handles permitting, writes grants and provides training as needed. Nurse Lisa White’s duties includes hosting weekly walk-in clinics and organizing flu vaccination drives.

Leyden wants to become a part of the health district because it is about to undergo a transition from using paper records, for things like permits and inspections, to a completely electronic system.

“We’re moving forward,” said Gloria Fisher, chairwoman of the Leyden Board of Health. “Everything ... is going to be computerized. The grant will allow us to get the training we need.”

In Shelburne, the Board of Health wants to bring White to the town on a regular basis to do things like check blood pressure and provide vaccinations, said board member Deborah Coutinho.

“We would love to be able to have more services for people,” she said.

When the district was formed on July 1, five towns — Buckland, Charlemont, Gill, Hawley and Monroe — purchased all four of the district’s services.

Conway and Deerfield bought the nursing service, and Heath purchased the trash and septic services.

Representatives from all of the towns’ boards of health meet monthly as a part of the district’s oversight board. Shelburne and Leyden representatives may soon begin attending meetings, although the towns would not officially join until July, said Walker.

Funding formula to change

The services are currently covered by a $118,375 grant from the executive office of administration and finance, but that one-year grant will end on June 30.

Towns do chip in money as well, but Walker said their contribution is limited to what they had previously paid for services before joining the health district. The contributions range from $500 to $15,000, depending on what services each town is receiving.

In the months to come, the health district’s oversight board will be discussing a future funding formula, said Walker.

The goal for next fiscal year, which begins in July, is to have half of the district’s cost covered by grants and half by town contributions. By fiscal year 2015, the goal would be to have 25 percent covered by grants, and 75 percent by participating towns.

You can reach Chris Shores at:
or 413-772-0261, ext. 264

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