Grant funds shared health services between towns

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By Laura Hayes, Senior Community Reporter

NORTHBOROUGH — The selectmen unanimously approved an inter-municipal agreement between four local communities to share public health services.

Northborough Health Agent Kristin Black said the Department of Public Health (DPH) has been pushing for regionalization. 

“I think, if anything, COVID has shown us that it’s really hard to stand alone, especially through a pandemic and the push and pull of resources and all the rest,” Black said.

Northborough’s agreement will be between the town, Westborough, Southborough and Boylston. Black said the agreements outline how the towns will work together, share public health positions and execute the grant funds.

Selectmen thanked Black for her work. 

“We certainly would anticipate that the regionalization will provide a lot of better coordination and efficiencies across than what you had described had been the case where it was essentially every town for itself,” said Chair Jason Perreault. 

Selectmen had voted to accept the grant funds in May.

That grant came from DPH through the organization’s Public Health Excellence for Shared Services Grant

Black said they will receive grant funds for three years — $350,000 in the first year and $300,000 in the second and third. 

According to the inter-municipal agreement, this collection of the towns will be called the Greater Boroughs Partnership for Health. The partnership will have an advisory board made up of a member and alternate selected by each town’s board of health. 

Black said the grant funds will be used to fund contracted nursing services, a shared health inspector, food and housing inspection software and equipment for communities. 

Northborough will be the host town. According to Black, this means that the town would be responsible for receiving and distributing the grant funds. 

Nurses will hold office hours in each of the towns and provide services like infectious disease surveillance, preventative care, education and outreach, organizing immunizations and blood pressure clinics as well as emergency planning. 

The nurses will also work with the schools to expand Westborough’s Childhood Immunization program. 

Northborough would also host a shared health inspector, increasing the current health inspector position from seven to 32 hours per week. Black said the state would cover the position’s benefits. In an email, she said the health inspector would be used by Northborough, Southborough and Boylston. 

Black would supervise the health inspector and be the department head overseeing the nursing contract. According to Black, 15 percent of the total grant amount will go back to Northborough’s general fund to supplement staff’s time.

“The great news is there’s no cost to any of the towns,” she said. “If anything, this is really money coming in, and it’s going to let us have a legal framework to deliver these services to our residents.”

The agreement has also been approved by Westborough, Southborough and Boylston.

 

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