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Sheriff’s Dept. partners with LifePath to vaccinate seniors

  • Annette Roback of Elm Terrace in Greenfield gets her COVID-19 vaccine from registered nurse Brianna Cooley at the Elm Terrace Community Room on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Many residents of Elm Terrace in Greenfield received COVID-19 vaccines on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Joe LaChance of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office TRIAD unit monitors residents of Elm Terrace after they received their COVID-19 vaccines on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 3/8/2021 5:06:46 PM

GREENFIELD — Seventy-one-year-old Annette Roback was thrilled to receive the first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine early Monday morning.

“My daughter, who is a physician’s assistant, already had both of hers,” she said. “She’s been worried about me, so she was happy to hear I was getting my first shot today.”

Roback lives at Elm Terrace in Greenfield — directly across the street from the Franklin County Jail and House of Correction. She said the shot didn’t hurt at all, and even if it makes her tired or gives her a headache, it’s worth it not to get the virus.

“I’ve been living very cautiously,” she said. “I go shopping twice a week, but very early, before everyone else. I know I still have to wear a mask and protect people from me, but I don’t have to be as scared anymore.”

Roback said she tried to get appointments at several other clinics to no avail, so she was happy when she heard the sheriff’s medical staff was coming to Elm Terrace.

After the jail finished vaccinating its staff and inmates in the first phase of vaccination efforts, Sheriff Christopher Donelan and his medical staff turned their efforts to collaborating with LifePath and elderly housing complexes throughout Franklin County to bring vaccines to seniors.

Donelan said he expected 80 to 85 Elm Terrace residents to show up on Monday. He said he plans to visit a couple more senior housing complexes this week, including Highland Village in Shelburne Falls, until his staff turns its attentions to vaccinating educators on Thursday.

“We are very excited to be part of the Franklin County vaccination effort,” he said. “Our medical team members from the jail are highly qualified medical professionals, and their help will speed up access to the vaccine for everyone. The problem is, we can only work with as many vaccines as we receive each week.”

Donelan said Dr. Ruth Potee, with whom he works both at the jail and on the Opioid Task Force of Franklin County and the North Quabbin Region, always pushes him to think outside the box — so he did when it came to delivering COVID-19 vaccines to seniors and soon to educators.

The sheriff said that because of the work his office has done with the Opioid Task Force, many partnerships, like the one LifePath, have developed. He said he called LifePath to offer assistance with vaccinations, and the agency took him up on it.

“We have several housing complexes in Franklin County, including in Shelburne Falls, Turners Falls, Gill, Bernardston and Northfield,” he said. “We’ve done several of them already.”

Donelan said once seniors and educators are vaccinated and the state moves to Phase 3 of the vaccine distribution plan, which will focus on the general public, his office will contact partners to see how it can continue to help.

“I hope we keep getting more and more vaccine each week,” he said. “If we get enough, we would like to eventually set up a drive-thru for the general public.”

Donelan said he has been watching the news day after day, and has heard how difficult it is for people to get the vaccine when it is their turn.

“I’m so grateful that congregate housing, like the jail, was at the top of the list for vaccinations,” he said. “We knew we’d be done early, so we wanted to get vaccines out into the community, the county.”

Seniors ages 65 and older are currently being vaccinated, as are people with two comorbidities.

“We plan to be a part of the community-wide vaccination effort once the vaccine is universally available,” Donelan said. “Our goal is to speed up vaccinations so that we can all return to normal.”

Ray Zukowski, director of the TRIAD program, agreed that access to the vaccine for seniors can be challenging, and because the TRIAD team has a strong relationship with seniors throughout the county, its members joined Donelan in his effort to get the vaccine to “every senior who wants it.”

LifePath Executive Director Barbara Bodzin said the agency has worked hard to mobilize staff and volunteers to support the community with registration and transportation support, as well as identify individuals who are homebound and will be in need of accommodations to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

“We are continuing with our partnerships with the sheriff’s office, Community Health Center of Franklin County and Greenfield Board of Health to register home health workers, as well as help staff at elder housing sites,” Bodzin said.

Elm Terrace vaccinated its residents in the Community Room. A slow, steady stream of residents trickled in at around 9:30 a.m. First, they were signed in and their temperatures were taken. Then, they were directed to a chair in a small room, off of the larger main room, where the vaccine was administered. Finally, they were escorted to the “waiting” room where they were monitored for 15 to 30 minutes.

Tom Guerino, executive director of the Greenfield Housing Authority, which manages Elm Terrace, said the sheriff and his staff have vaccinating people “down to a science.” He said he has also worked with the city and its health director. Some of the seniors at Elm Terrace have already had their second shots because they went to the John Zon Community Center or to their doctors to get the vaccine.

“We communicate with everyone daily so we make sure our residents are safe,” Guerino said.

Vaccine website

Franklin County residents can go to franklincountymavaccine.org to register for an appointment at one of the local clinics. People must act quickly to secure an appointment as slots tend to fill up within 15 to 25 minutes after links are posted.

Vaccinations will be given in Montague at Franklin County Technical School on Friday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and in Orange at Ralph C. Mahar Regional School on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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

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