State Helps Plan Countywide Health Coalition
Local boards of health have been discussing sharing services for years and now they can map out how the coalition would operate with the help of state funds.
"It's basically an organizational planning grant," Berkshire Regional Planning Commission Executive Director Nathaniel Karns said Friday. "Over the years public health board have been given more responsibility and most of our boards are volunteers."
The idea is basically for the smaller of the county towns to pool their resources together to handle inspections and administer programs. The local boards would still be in charge of setting policy while providing shared services for the whole county.
"What we're envisioning is an ala carte menu," Karns said. "I would expect there would be contractors or paid staff hired to do specific things."
Karns used pool and septic inspections as examples of services that could be provided countywide. Mount Washington, for example, has only 144 residents but there is also a camp that needs pool inspections, Karns said. An inspector could be hired for the entire or portions of the county to handle all of the inspections.
The state also does not fund local health boards but does provide competitive grants. As one entity, the county would have a stronger chance at getting the grants; health officials hope that it will ease the financial burden on the towns.
If the coalition is created, the towns involved are envisioned to have representation and voting rights on the regional board.
Karns said 21 of the county's municipalities – the largest being North Adams – have signed onto the idea but they are not locked into their involvement as the planning progresses.
This grant also qualifies the health coalition for an attempt at securing a $150,000 grant for implementation in the fall. The grant, announced Friday by Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray, is being handled by BRPC but the health officials will be doing the planning.
Tags: Berkshire Regional Planning Commission, health coalition,