Bernardston joins Cooperative Public Health Service through FRCOG

  • Randy Crochier is the new health agent for the Franklin Regional Council of Governments. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 11/29/2019 11:35:24 AM

BERNARDSTON — The town recently increased its access to health services, including food service and housing inspections and a regional public health nurse, by joining the Cooperative Public Health Service offered by the Franklin Regional Council of Governments (FRCOG).

The Bernardston Board of Health still has the ability to review everything FRCOG is doing, said current Board of Health and Selectboard member Brian Keir. The town will also receive emails notifying officials, including the Selectboard, of applications so it can be aware of ongoing activities.

“We have the ability to see everything going on locally and give feedback to FRCOG on issues,” Keir said.

According to FRCOG’s Director of Community Services Phoebe Walker, towns that are part of the health district have access to a regional public health nurse and health agents, which deal with inspecting restaurants, septic systems and more. Housing and community sanitation issues can also be addressed through FRCOG. However, Bernardston will keep all Title 5 work, which includes septic work and permitting, under the supervision of Board of Health Chair David Powers.

“Our staff will do food and housing inspections, inspections for local restaurants or temporary food events, and provide other local health services,” said FRCOG’s Regional Health Agent Randy Crochier. Additionally, FRCOG will provide training and guidance for the Board of Health, as needed.

According to Crochier, Bernardston reached out to FRCOG to inquire about its services. The town officially signed up on Nov. 1. This is not expected to be an increased expense for the town, Crochier said; rather, the cost will be comparable to the cost for these services prior to joining the district.

The health district will provide essential services through its public health nurse and access to 24-hour health services, which is something Crochier said most small towns don’t have. The public health nurse may also be able to conduct home visits on a limited basis, depending on scheduling and urgency of a patient’s needs.

The aid from FRCOG helps to free up current Bernardston Board of Health staff for other needs. Residents who need permits for anything other than septic systems — including food service certifications — can apply through the FRCOG website.

“It makes it easier for restaurant owners,” Keir noted.

Creation and enforcement of local bylaws will remain under Bernardston’s jurisdiction. According to Keir, the Selectboard can still accept, reject or modify bylaws, and FRCOG will enforce any such locally created bylaws.

Meanwhile, Bernardston will get a seat on the FRCOG oversight board.

“We can have input on policy changes they may or may not implement,” Keir explained.

Since joining the Cooperative Public Health Service on Nov. 1, Keir said operations have been moving smoothly and efficiently. Bernardston is the 14th town to join the Cooperative Public Health Service.

Board of Health seeks member

The Bernardston Board of Health is seeking a third member, as it currently operates with just two. When the town doesn’t have enough members for a full Board of Health, its duties fall to Selectboard.

Keir recently volunteered to serve on the Board of Health until the May election, to ensure its responsibilities are fulfilled in the interim.

Those interested in joining the board can call the Board of Health office at 413-648-5237 or 413-648-5401. The office is open Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to noon, as well as on the first and third Wednesday of the month from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Zack DeLuca can be reached at zdeluca@recorder.com or
413-772-0261, ext. 264.


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