Four communities awarded $250K grant to support public health coordination

  • The offices at the Greenfield Health Department. Four local communities, including Greenfield, have received a $250,000 grant that health officials say will help to improve communication across town lines. FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 11/28/2021 11:13:10 AM

Four local communities have received a $250,000 Department of Public Health grant, which health officials say will help to improve communication across town lines.

The grant, which will be administered over two years ($125,000 per year) with funds allocated to the communities through Greenfield’s Health Department budget, will be used to hire new nursing staff to serve Greenfield, Montague, Deerfield and Sunderland, as well as to improve public communication.

“I am very proud of the grant award, and I feel this is finally a way for all of us to communicate and share information without limitations and delays that might have been present earlier on in the pandemic,” Greenfield Health Director Jennifer Hoffman said in a statement. “Although we have been collaborating with one another throughout the pandemic, now we will be stronger and united in educating our communities as well as transmitting information more quickly to one another.”

Hoffman said the grant will support hiring two part-time nurses and one part-time epidemiologist, or nurse with epidemiological experience, and the positions will be divided equally between the communities. These individuals will support COVID-19 contact tracing and case investigation within the communities.

Carolyn Shores Ness, chairwoman of the Deerfield Board of Health, said the most important aspect of the grant will be its ability to enhance communication and surveillance between municipalities.

“In Deerfield, we’ve been (contact) tracing all along, but what’s really exciting is we’ll be able to communicate better,” she said. “Our public school system has a lot of school choice, and it’s important to know what’s going on.”

Shores Ness said with the uncertainty of COVID-19 variants and the direction of the pandemic, she’s “thrilled” about the work the grant will support.

“Having really good surveillance and being able to contact trace immediately is really key to keeping everything contained and keeping our schools open and safe,” she explained.

Melanie Ames Zamojski, a member of the Montague Board of Health, also emphasized the impact better communication will have for the towns.

“Communication is vitally important between our towns in Franklin County ... because people move from place to place,” she said.

Ames Zamojski said at the end of November, the Community Tracing Collaborative — the state’s program for contact tracing — is expected to stop taking cases.

“Once the Community Tracing Collaborative, or CTC, stops taking cases ... we will be able to continue to trace people who are positive and their contacts in order to inform people of the isolation and quarantine guidance that’s still out by the state,” Ames Zamojski said. “We’ll be doing that in collaboration with Deerfield, Sunderland and Greenfield, and that in itself is going to improve communications between the city of Greenfield and Montague.”

Montague Town Administrator Steve Ellis said in an announcement that he was “excited” the Department of Public Health was responsive to the collaborative request for additional capacity.

“It will enable more rigorous and complete contact tracing, and provide additional expertise as we work to identify and monitor the most relevant indicators of COVID-19’s prevalence and risk and respond to that evolving risk,” Ellis said.

The additional nursing staff will also allow Montague to augment the hours of its public health nurse, Ames Zamojski added.

“They’ll work together,” she said, “to make sure our residents have the information to be as safe as possible and not transmit COVID as best we can.”

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