Legislators to hold hearing on public health Friday


Staff Writer
Published: 10/15/2019 5:27:09 PM

GREENFIELD — The state Legislature’s Joint Committee on Public Health and its Rural Caucus will hold a legislative oversight hearing to review the public health findings of the recently released Rural Policy Plan and to discuss the unique health challenges that face Franklin County communities.

The 108-page plan, developed by the state Rural Policy Advisory Commission, focuses on several areas, including infrastructure, the economy, community — which includes public health — and resiliency.

The hearing, which will be held Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the John W. Olver Transit Center, is co-sponsored by the Franklin Regional Council of Governments and supported by Baystate Health and Cooley Dickinson Health Care. Lunch, beginning at 11 a.m., will be provided for all who attend. The event is free, accessible and open to the public.

“Building off a very successful food security oversight hearing held at Greenfield Community College on Sept. 27, I am grateful to join with Western Massachusetts colleagues to pull Beacon Hill’s focus west so that we can again attend to a public health issue that is critically important to our constituents and formulate the best possible policy responses,” said Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton, who is co-chair of the Joint Committee on Public Health.

“Rural communities face unique challenges when compared to the rest of Massachusetts,” said Rep. Paul Mark, D-Peru. “This Public Health Committee hearing in Greenfield is a great opportunity for the people of our rural region to have a chance to be heard from directly by the Legislature. I am grateful to Sen. Comerford and Rep. John Mahoney for holding this important hearing in Franklin County at a time that coincides perfectly with the ongoing work of the Rural Policy Advisory Commission and the recent release of the statewide Rural Policy Plan.”

Sen. Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield and co-chair of the Rural Caucus, said he appreciates the chairs’ attention to serious matters and looks forward to working closely with them and the commission to quickly advance the health care points of the Rural Policy Plan.

During the hearing, expert panels will share their views on the Rural Policy Plan recommendations and testify on the topics of rural health disparities, improving health care access and infrastructure, local public health structures and rural social determinants of health.

Comerford said some of the health-related bills that have been approved by the committee include strengthening the local and regional public health system, improving access to family physicians and primary care, one related to postpartum depression screening, ensuring dental coverage to anyone on MassHealth and establishing comprehensive regulations to protect children, families and firefighters from harmful flame retardants.

The formal oversight hearing presents an opportunity for legislators from across the commonwealth to better understand both the acute challenges and innovative projects underway to address rural health inequities. The goal of the hearing is to ensure that the Joint Committee on Public Health joins rural advocates in improving the overall health of the state’s 170 rural communities.

Reach Anita Fritz at 413-772-0261, ext. 269 or afritz@recorder.com.

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