Greenfield awarded $1.5M grant to support five area towns with public health services

  • The Greenfield Health Department’s offices on Sanderson Street. Staff File Photo

Published: 7/25/2022 3:21:49 PM

GREENFIELD — The Health Department will receive $1.5 million over the next five years from the state Department of Public Health and Office of Local and Regional Health aimed at improving public health standards.

“Public health, as everyone knows, has been underfunded for a very long time,” said Greenfield Health Director Jennifer Hoffman. “This is money that is trying to help multiple communities together on a regional level.”

The grant, which recognizes Greenfield as the “lead municipality,” will allow the city to provide professional assistance to Shutesbury, Leverett, Montague, Deerfield and Sunderland, according to Mayor Roxann Wedegartner.

“We’re ... very excited about this grant because we can all work together and have similar public health initiatives, especially since many people travel throughout these communities,” Hoffman said. “We should be speaking the same thing and … on board with the same initiatives. That’s what we’re really excited to do.”

How the grant is put to use will depend on the needs of the different communities, Hoffman said, though generally speaking it could be used to update computers, printers and software, as well as to hire additional staff or cover the cost of necessary certifications. Montague Health Director Daniel Wasiuk said collaborating communities will be meeting throughout the year “to best tailor what (they) want to purchase.”

“We’re actually going to be able to get the boots on the ground, and the equipment and the training,” said Wasiuk. “It’s going to be good for everybody.

“We’re in the infancy stage,” he added. “We finally just got accepted. Now, it’s the brainstorming stage.”

Wasiuk said while housing, restaurant and septic inspections may fall under the scope of the grant, “a requisite” of the grant is hiring 1.5 nurses and a full-time health agent to share. This, he said, will be the first thing the collaborating communities look to do over the course of about one year.

“It’s really the staff, the training and the equipment that we’re going to focus on this year, with the nurses and the health agent taking precedent,” he said.

Carolyn Shores Ness, chair of the Deerfield Board of Health, said the grant will help support improved capacity for its local health agent and nursing staff.

“Public health has traditionally been underfunded,” Shores Ness said. “This means the level of public health delivered to our community is going to increase, and that’s very exciting.”

In Deerfield, the grant will help to support the need for additional nursing hours and health agent coverage.

“There are so many things we can do in the community with additional nurse hours,” Shores Ness said. “Health care access is a huge issue, especially for our seniors because instead of being in Greenfield and Northampton, it’s in Springfield.”

Shores Ness said Deerfield’s collaboration with Greenfield since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic has been “wonderful.” The two communities formalized their partnership in 2021 through a $250,000 state Department of Public Health grant aimed at improving communication across town lines.

“We’ve been really pleased so far,” Shores Ness said. “I feel like the town of Deerfield has had a real voice in what services are rendered and we’re increasing what we’re doing, so it’s a win-win.”

“We’re all going to have the same say. ...We want a fair distribution of this,” Wasiuk said.

Wedegartner said the recognition by the Department of Public Health is a testament to the quality of work happening within Greenfield’s Health Department.

“I think this is a result of the fact that COVID laid bare the inequalities in our communities and what kind of resources have been made available to our smaller communities by the state, particularly in western Massachusetts,” she said. “I think this is the DPH understanding that and preparing to go forward.”

At a Greenfield City Council meeting last week, Precinct 1 Councilor Katherine Golub thanked Hoffman for her work in obtaining the grant.

“Public health has been really underfunded,” she said. “And I’m grateful that you’ve worked on this grant and that it’s happening.”

Reporter Mary Byrne can be reached at or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne. Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-772-0261, ext. 261 or


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