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SNAP Clients to Receive February Benefits Early

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GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass. — Family Services of Community Health Programs advises SNAP clients that February benefits are being distributed early.

Clients are encouraged to budget this early February payment accordingly, as future benefits may not be reloaded until after the partial government shutdown comes to an end.

SNAP is the federal government's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for income-eligible individuals and families. Benefits are administered by the state.

WIC (Women, Infants & Children) benefits will continue and can be accessed as usual. CHP will communicate any WIC updates to clients, as information is available.

Any South County WIC or SNAP clients needing assistance or information may contact CHP Family Services at 413-528-0457 or any other local WIC or SNAP agency.

Family Services has some emergency food available to those in need. Donations of unexpired food and baby formula are welcome at CHP's Great Barrington office at 442 Stockbridge Road.


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Flu Shot: It's That Time Again

By Dr. Everett Lamm

With flu season around the corner, your health care providers, employers, pharmacists and others are sounding the annual reminder: "Get your annual flu shot." We encourage this for you — and for the people around you, too. We see evidence every year of the benefits of the flu vaccine, and we also see the risks of skipping it.

The flu vaccine has dramatic impacts on public health. However, since strains of the flu may vary from year to year, the vaccine must be received annually. Although the vaccine doesn't guarantee a flu-free winter and perfect health, medical research has convincingly shown that the flu shot reduces flu severity and reduces sick visits, hospitalizations and intensive care admissions. For infants and the elderly and those with compromised immune systems, the flu shot is essential protection against serious illness.

Although Massachusetts has historically ranked high in its overall immunization rates —  50 percent of all residents received vaccines in 2015-16 flu season — that percentage dropped from 55 percent the year before. The lowest rates of vaccination are in residents 18-49 — 40 percent for the 2015-16 season, but vaccine rates for all age groups (except young children) dropped slightly as well.

Some people have medical reasons for being unable to have the shot, but others go without by choice. Why? They may feel confident in their own good health and their body's ability to ward off illness. They may be skeptical about vaccines in general. However, skipping the flu vaccine means taking an unnecessary risk – for yourself and others whom you care for or work with, or who may be more vulnerable than you to illness.

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