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Community Health Improvement Plan kicks off third year with reflection


Staff Writer

Public health leaders from across Franklin County and the North Quabbin region gathered remotely Wednesday afternoon for the first Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP) meeting of the year, kicking off the final year of the three-year plan.

CHIP aims to identify priority health needs, disparities and the factors that contribute to them; identify current and required resources to address these needs; reduce gaps in services; and overall, improve the health in our region.

In the 2021-2023 plan, three major goals were identified, which include reducing substance abuse by youths; increasing individual and collective resiliency by strengthening social connectedness for those experiencing depression and/or anxiety; and finally, continuing to evolve resources to reduce barriers for people living with or at risk for Type 2 diabetes. Within each goal, there are several identified objectives, with anticipated outcomes.

“Our first year was a good year, but it was a little hunkered down, planning, thinking, retooling,” said CHIP Program Coordinator Jennifer Audley, reflecting on 2021, the first year of the plan.

The second year, Audley said, represented an opportunity to get back out into the community, stopping by classrooms and visiting new family medicine residency interns at Baystate Franklin Medical Center. While meetings remained on Zoom, the group was able to continue advocacy via newsletters.

Representatives from housing, transportation and local social service agencies spoke to the progress made in the last two years, and what work still lies ahead. “I think one of the things we’ve all learned here, and one of the things I really value with the CHIP, is the understanding housing really is part of the solution,” said Franklin County Regional Housing & Redevelopment Authority Executive Director Gina Govoni. “There is really a need for affordability, accessibility and support.”

Govoni said the housing authority has enjoyed working with Clinical & Support Options (CSO) and is excited for the agency to begin its expansion project at the Wells Street shelter in Greenfield, which will entail expanding shelter capacity from 30 to 40, and construction of a new three-story building that will hold 36 studio apartments.

Megan Rhodes, Franklin Regional Council of Governments’ senior transportation and land use planner, added that transportation “affects all facets of peo-





ple’s lives.” In particular, Rhodes spoke about the regional transportation plan update.

“This plan is pretty important to us,” she said. “Not only do we look at all modes of transportation, but we’re also looking at … the next 25 years.”

Rhodes said the project is in the public input phase, gathering information on what residents think is needed in the region, whether that’s more sidewalks or more frequent bus services. In addition to a survey posted on the transportation page of the FRCOG website, a virtual public meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 15, at 5:30 p.m. Registration is required at t i n y u r l .c o m /5 A B 5 BW K V.

“To me, the biggest accomplishment of this year is the way we have repaired the social fabric of our lives, which had become frayed by the pandemic, and a little worn out. Some threads snapped,” Audley reflected. “I feel like I have this picture of the repair happening and the new threads, and the reinforcement. I feel like we’re demonstratively becoming more connected as a result of this process.”

FRCOG Director of Community Services Phoebe Walker shared with attendees the five key bills that public health officials hope to garner legislators’ support for in 2023, including one, bill S 89, that offers financial support to spouses who act as caregivers. The bill, she explained, aims to address the shortage in home health aides.

“This is a very important bill,” Walker said. “And we think we have a lot to say as a rural community about it.” Reporter Mary Byrne can be reached at or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne.

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