Antonelli tackles new role as Hudson Director of Public and Community Health

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Lauren Antonelli was appointed as Hudson’s new Director of Public and Community Health earlier this year. (Photo/courtesy Hudson Health Department)

HUDSON – Hudson has a new Director of Public and Community Health. 

After two years of COVID-19 operations, and at a potential turning point in the pandemic response, Lauren Antonelli is now looking to the future, with a mix of challenges and evolutions ahead.

“I’m really excited to be taking on this new role,” she said in an interview with the Community Advocate last month.

Antonelli appointed last month

Antonelli was formally appointed by a Select Board vote on May 16. 

Her selection capped a hiring process following the resignation of former director Kelli Calo earlier this year. 

Calo had been in her role since 2017. 

“We have a fabulous team here,” Calo said in March.

“I’ll miss it so much,” she added.

Tapped as Calo’s successor, Antonelli now helms a department she joined just under two years ago in Aug. 2020. 

Before coming to the Health Department, Antonelli got her start working in a substance abuse prevention role with the Allston-Brighton Substance Abuse Task Force in Boston. 

She then worked to help those experiencing homelessness in positions with the St. Mary’s Center for Women and Children, also in Boston.

“I got exposed to a lot of things,” Antonelli said of her early career, noting experience with diverse clientele in Boston. 

Antonelli, who also obtained a masters degree with a focus on psychology in 2013, eventually opted to leave Boston for a position in Hudson as the Regional Youth Substance Abuse Prevention Program Coordinator in town, where she has now also lived for roughly five years. 

“That seemed like a really nice fit,” she said of the Health Department role.

Health Department expanded during pandemic

Initially focused on substance abuse prevention in Hudson, Antonelli’s tenure in town, to date, has been dominated by the larger COVID-19 pandemic. 

Taxing public health professionals, the pandemic has also freed up new grant money to expand Hudson’s Health Department staffing as part of a regional shared services network with a number of area communities. 

With pandemic circumstances continuing to evolve, that staffing boom now represents a point of focus for Antonelli. 

There were four full-time Hudson Health Department employees and one part-time staffer prior to the pandemic. 

That number now totals 15 full-time staff, with multiple part-time individuals. 

Though funding for the new positions has been secured through June 2024, the future beyond that point is less certain. 

“It’s hard to still be in the very early stages of this, getting it up and running, and then also have to be thinking about the sustainability [of it],” Antonelli said. 

She has her eye on funding sources, expressing optimism for the longevity of these new positions and an inter-municipal shared services model for the future. 

“I am hopeful that they’re not just going to drop everything once they’ve made these big investments to get things up and running,” she said.

Including Hudson, and other communities such as Framingham, this model has allowed for collaborative coronavirus contact tracing work, among other efforts, Antonelli explained. 

Space constraints linger

Where the topic of funding poses more long term questions, current space constraints present a present day hurdle for the Health Department Antonelli is rising to lead. 

Without space in their main office, some Health Department staff are working in the Hudson Town Hall’s auditorium when their hybrid schedules require in-person work at Town Hall. 

As the summer months arrive, the lack of air conditioning in that space is further challenging.

“We are basically making the best of what we have,” Antonelli said.

The Health Department has ARPA money allocated to alleviate space constraints. But with some concerns about the sustainability of renting new office space, for example, next steps remained to be determined as of last month. 

Health Director eyes ‘next chapter’ for department

Outside of COVID-19 and related staffing changes, Antonelli reiterated excitement about what is a new phase in the pandemic response. 

With a sense of normalcy returning after the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions, Antonelli highlighted a variety of efforts, ranging from continued substance abuse prevention work, to mental health services, to work with Hudson’s ever-expanding business community.

“[The pandemic has] really been the focus,” Antonelli said. “So, I’m excited now that this next chapter for me is also hopefully the start of a next chapter for the department and the town as a whole, as we kind of transition out of COVID a bit.”

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