FRCOG prioritizes mental, physical health needs in updated plan

  • WALKER

Staff Writer
Published: 9/29/2020 4:24:28 PM

GREENFIELD — The Franklin Regional Council of Governments (FRCOG) will spend the next year considering the health of local people by focusing on delaying the age students first use addictive substances, increasing social connectedness for people with anxiety and depression, and reducing barriers to active living and healthy eating for those living with or at risk for diabetes.

Every three years, FRCOG and its partners form working groups to update the Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP), a document that explores how to keep local people healthy and aims to ensure that everyone has equitable access to health care. Its goal is to ensure all residents of Franklin County and the North Quabbin region have the opportunity to pursue healthy lifestyles and achieve social, emotional, physical and spiritual well-being.

“There’s been a lot of work done on this at both the state and local levels,” FRCOG Director of Community Services Phoebe Walker said. “We’ve looked at all factors to improve health and there are a lot of good ideas. There are a lot of strategies in the 2020 CHIP that will make a difference in people’s lives.”

FRCOG and its partners come up with a three-year plan and then prioritize several issues for each year over those three years. By 2023, one of the hopes is to see a 10 percent decrease in the number of youths experiencing depression and anxiety by promoting and supporting successful mentoring programs, anti-racism work and peer support programs, as well as peer-led outreach around youth mental health and family connectedness.

The report also prioritizes the increased engagement of people experiencing the spectrum of mental wellness. That, those who worked on the current update believe, would include increasing access and decreasing barriers to training and certifications for people with experience of anxiety or depression by providing funding, publicity and professional support for certified peer support specialists, community health workers and recovery coaches.

Rose Swensen of HRiA (Health Resource in Action) Inc., which develops programs that advance public health and medical research, worked with FRCOG to create the updated CHIP.

“It begins with a community health needs assessment,” Swensen said during a recent virtual meeting to present the new document. “The CHIP is identified, a strategic plan for community health improvement is created and then it’s executed.”

Swensen said particularly important is the focus on disparities and inequities.

FRCOG Transportation and GIS Program Manager Maureen Mullaney led the group that looked at how to help people with or at risk for diabetes. She said transportation plays an important role in health outcomes in rural Franklin County.

“Access to bike paths, sidewalks, access to programs and inclusion of all members of a community make a healthier community,” Mullaney said.

One of the strategies of CHIP is to encourage more towns in the area to enter the Complete Streets Funding Program, which would provide funding to increase by 5 percent by 2023 the miles of sidewalks and bicycle facilities.

“We intended for this Community Health Improvement Plan to provide a clear plan that identifies priority health needs and disparities and the factors that contribute to them; build on our strengths by identifying current resources in the community to address priority health issues; identify the most effective strategies for addressing the priority health needs; reduce gaps and duplication in services; and increase our collective ability to secure resources to improve health in our region,” Walker said.

For more information about the 2020 to 2023 CHIP, visit bit.ly/339GOI4.

Reach Anita Fritz 413-772-9591 or afritz@recorder.com.

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