Hudson to apply for MetroWest Health Foundation grants

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Hudson to apply for MetroWest Health Foundation grants
Hudson’s Town Hall is viewed from Pope Hill near downtown. The Select Board approved allowing the Health Department to apply for several grants. (Photo/Dakota Antelman)

HUDSON – The Select Board approved allowing the Health Department to apply for several grants that will benefit Hudson residents during its March 18 meeting.

One of the grants – the MetroWest Food Collaborative Grant – would help to expand food access across the MetroWest region and advocate for more equitable food systems. The grant is for a to-be-determined amount and would span a year.

The grant from the MetroWest Health Foundation (MWHF) would pilot a SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) outreach coordinator initiative. The Health Department plans to propose hiring a full-time SNAP outreach coordinator to aid residents in applying for and using SNAP benefits. 

There was one more request to apply for a MWHF grant for a one-year grant to pilot a housing navigator position to help residents with matters relating to housing for $30,000. The department also requested to apply for a grant through the Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts activation fund to pilot an outreach initiative for SNAP in the amount of $90,000, which would address the gap in assistance for older adults and families in Hudson, Ashland, Hopkinton and Milford.

Select Board member Judy Congdon was interested in whether the housing navigator position would continue beyond the grant fund period. Public and Community Health Director Lauren Antonelli said it may not continue full time. But if it goes well, “We’ll be strategizing on how we can keep it going,” Antonelli said.

“Over the course of the year if we get the grant, we’ll be thinking about … what other grants can we maybe apply for,” said Antonelli.

She said the department is seeing a big need for assistance with housing in terms of finding and keeping it, as well as senior residents who want to “age in place” as they get older. The goal is to have someone who can focus on housing issues and assist those who need the help.

Antonelli said of the three grant applications, “They’re all pilot initiatives.”

In personnel news, the Select Board approved the appointment of Karina Scott as the MetroWest Shared Public Health Services (MWSPHS) coordinator for the Health Department. As the coordinator, she will support the regional collaborative that is composed of Hudson, Ashland, Framingham, Maynard, Medway, Milford, Millis and Natick.

According to the job description, the eight Health Departments in the collaborative engage in an innovative initiative to strengthen core local public health services and promote healthier communities across the region. The coordinator reports to Antonelli and the MWSPHS board.

Antonelli said as a part of MWSPHS, the position is fully funded by the Public Health Excellence grant from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

Other news

The board also voted to consider the elimination of the currently vacant position of recreation assistant and to replace it with the position of program coordinator with a start date of March 19.

According to the job description, the program director would provide Recreation Director Steven Santos with “the essential support and assistance needed to successfully develop, execute and evaluate a comprehensive portfolio of community recreation offerings.” The focus would be on programs, events and facility-related projects with the adherence to the Recreation Department’s goals and objectives.

Congdon asked how long the recreation assistant position had been vacant, and Santos noted it had been unfilled since November 2022.

She asked, “Has it been vacant that long because we’ve had a difficult [time] with the title, the job description?”

 Santos said the reason was when the individual in that role left, they decided to take time to re-evaluate the position, which was created in 2014.

He added, “It took us a little longer than we had anticipated to kind of put things together and really create the framework to divide up the responsibilities among the full-time staff so that we’d get the best candidate.”

The idea was to have a position that was a supervisory role to assume more responsibility and take some of the burden off of the director and the assistant director, according to Santos.

Select Board Chair Scott Duplisea inquired about when the position would be advertised, and Santos said March 19. Human Resource and Licensing Manager Fernanda Santos would be working on the advertising process for the job.

He said, “Fernanda’s going to take the lead on that, and we’re happy to have her do that.”

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