Hopkinton, MA
Hopkinton, US
7:26 pm, Wednesday, July 24, 2024
temperature icon 68°F
Humidity 93 %
Wind Gust: 3 mph


Board of Health reviews director’s goals for FY 2025

by | Jun 25, 2024 | News

Health Director Shaun McAuliffe reviewed his goals for fiscal year 2025 with the Board of Health on Monday night. 

Toward the top of the Health Department’s priorities in the coming year is action on tobacco use in town. In particular, McAuliffe is focusing on the use of nicotine products by teenagers and younger children.

“We’re hearing that kids are trying to push vaping products even in the middle school,” McAuliffe said.

The department’s goal to reduce tobacco use will focus on restricting access. Proposed regulations would limit tobacco and nicotine product sales to younger residents.

McAuliffe also hinted at broader action later down the road, which might mirror bans enacted in towns like Brookline.

Another aspect of this goal involves education. McAuliffe discussed plans to appropriate some opioid funds and develop drug education programs for the middle school.

The Health Department has had success with school tobacco programs before. A successful vaping program run between 2017 to 2021 saw nicotine use drop from 40% to almost 10% at the high school.

“It was a really successful program,” said McAuliffe.

Funding also was discussed as a priority for the coming year. McAuliffe shared that his goal for the department is to achieve between $75,000 to $100,000 in grant funding.

“The end goal is to improve the [town’s] baseline health and access to health services,” McAuliffe said of the funding goal.

The board discussed the logistical challenges of applying for and receiving grants. Chair Richard Jacobs advised McAuliffe to be mindful of both the program and the grant writing costs, and to plan accordingly.

Member Mary Jo Ondrechen suggested the department, in addition to seeking out grant writers, consider reaching out to the community for support. 

“I’m sure there are retired academics in town who have experience writing grants,” she said.

Draft of strategic plan coming soon

The board learned about the latest updates to the strategic plan. The Health Department has been developing this plan in consultation with the Metropolitan Area Planning Council and the Collins Institute.

Once in place, the plan is intended to bring the Health Department’s mission in line with those of town leadership and the Select Board.

McAuliffe informed the board that he had recently met with the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) and the Collins Institute to review a number of questions brought up in previous discussions.

He relayed that the primary focus of their latest discussion was the question of prioritization.

Said McAuliffe: “Issues that residents have identified as a priority should be highlighted as such.”

Staffing is one of the priorities McAuliffe is eager to begin working on in the strategic plan. He is currently working on plans to hire a part-time nurse.

“With a part-time public health nurse, we can get our vaccination programs running again,” he explained.

The board also discussed when drafts of the plan would be available. The consultants are on track to provide a draft to the Health Department by the end of June. A finalized version likely will be completed by August.

“Even when they’ve issued the final draft, they’ll still be available to us for questions and consultation,” added McAuliffe.

Public nursing capacities discussed

Simone Carter, the town’s public health nurse, brought updates to the board on present public health activities.

Carter noted an increase in cases of food-borne illness, but explained this was not unexpected. 

With warmer weather, more residents are serving food at backyard barbecues. Less caution in handling, preparing, and storing food at these events increases the risk of conditions like food poisoning, she and McAuliffe explained.

Additionally, Carter reviewed an uptick in diseases related to travel. She encouraged the board to remind residents about the risks of illness when they are away from home.

The board spent time discussing the full scope of nursing services provided by the Health Department. Administrative tasks and state requirements have affected Carter’s capacity recently.

Carter and McAuliffe explained that there is much more follow-up and work they are being asked to complete as the state increases its oversight on local health departments.

“We’re getting graded on our performance as the state increasingly moves toward regionalization,” said McAuliffe. “In theory, those that are performing well will be the last to be regionalized.”

This constraint on the town’s public nursing programs takes away from the department’s ability to be leaders in the region.

“We’re trying to position ourselves to be leading — and possibly even controlling — our region,” McAuliffe explained.

Mosquito control efforts underway before carnival

McAuliffe reported on the department’s efforts in mitigating insect borne diseases.

He provided updates on tick and mosquito control initiatives. According to the department, 20 cases of tick borne illnesses already have been reported since the start of 2024. 

Adding that the conditions for mosquito population growth are present in town, McAuliffe surmised it was “only a matter of time” before cases of other vector-borne diseases were reported.

To combat this, the Health Department is working with the Central Massachusetts Mosquito Control Project. 

“We’re spraying in certain areas to address mosquito populations around events,” said McAuliffe. “The hope is to get the school sprayed before the carnival.”

He added that CMMCP is focused on spraying a number of athletic fields in town.

East Main Street pickleball review still in progress

McAuliffe offered a brief update on the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection’s review of a proposed pickleball facility on East Main Street.

Land next to the Fairview Estates is the proposed site for an indoor-outdoor pickleball and padel tennis facility. The current proposal features 19 courts and parking for about 60 cars.

“MDEP has not completed their review of the plan,” said McAuliffe. “So it’s not quite a done deal just yet.”

Part of the infiltration system for Legacy Farms sits below the proposed site, according to McAuliffe. Completion of the technical review and a final determination are anticipated for July.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Key Storage 4.14.22