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Digitization, communication tops Board of Health agenda

by | Jan 9, 2024 | Featured: News, News

During his mid-year review, Health Director Shaun McAuliffe reported work on his three goals — concerning strategic planning, record digitization and a communication plan for PFAS in private wells — are “in progress.”

The update took place during Monday’s Board of Health meeting.

McAuliffe said next week he would be sending out a draft survey to advisory and stakeholder groups for their review.

There will be another survey in March and the materials will be melded with the department’s documentation for an expected completion date of the strategic plan in June.

He noted that the digitization of paper records is “moving along,” with 10% of the files shipped off to the vendor for scanning.

In written communication, Director of Information Technology Josh Grossetti said that 359 address folders were sent out, and 288 were boxed up and inventoried as of mid-December.

He asked that a board request for a “dashboard” with metrics about the project’s progress be clarified, and he suggested a meeting to talk about how that would look.

Chair Rick Jacobs noted he wanted the dashboard to include and update how many files were sent out to scan, and how many are completed and uploaded into Laserfiche.

Administrator Nidia LaRoche noted that this part of the work is the “very tip of the iceberg,” adding, “It’s a large project with a lot of arms.”

Board members also talked about their vision of going live with a kiosk at Town Hall where residents could perform land use and conservation searches, for example.

The kiosk would be self-serve and could be accessed on-site or from home, the director said. He noted that putting it by the elevator on the third floor (where inspectors and administrators are located) or in the lobby are possibilities.

He said other towns that have it recognize decreases in foot traffic and faster processing.

Related to the third goal, McAuliffe said interns would help map properties with private wells as well as irrigation wells. He said the work could be done in a couple of years and finished before the Department of Environmental Protection’s requested 5-10 years.

“This [mapping] will help us and the DEP in guiding regulations down the road,” McAuliffe said. He noted that irrigation wells also must meet drinking water standards, and this project would ensure both well types are equally protected and not tainted.

McAuliffe said having the data mapped will help identify neighborhoods where problems are most likely to exist.

He intends to use the state website as a guide when revamping the department’s information on this subject.

On the topic of PFAS, (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances), the director reported vessels would be installed in Well 6’s filtration system at the end of January. Samples from the Department of Public Works saw levels of 22.5 parts per trillion (ppt) and 26.4 ppt in December.

“It’s not too far above the threshold,” he said. “Overall, we’re in a good place.”

Outreach efforts contemplated

Additional discussion surrounded improving and modernizing outreach to the public on important health topics.

Public Health Nurse Simone Carter said her office ramped up its social media presence on Facebook and Instagram, going from 20 followers to more than 200. Popular items are reels, brief video clips with information about topics like winter safety, COVID and flu shots, test kits, etc.

She said they make four or five reels per week and post frequently elsewhere.

McAuliffe said he would like to do the same thing on the environmental side with information on inspecting ticks on clothing, storm preparation and more, just not as often.

Improvements to the department website also would be done.

Jacobs said it is important to reach out to people who may not have access to online tools or use social media.

McAuliffe said home visits and reaching out to people on a grassroots level also is necessary.

He said the department would not be spending more money to make changes with online outreach. Instead, he would use income saved from having a sole vendor.

“It is a very old bureaucratic system,” Carter added. “We have what we need. We just need to use it.”

The director added he would communicate with the town manager about boundaries established online for departments.

Vaccine deal in works

The director said the department would be starting a partnership in late January with VAXCare, a vaccine provider. Carter spoke about the advantages of having information in real time about insurance coverage, co-pays and reimbursement.

Carter said reimbursement for influenza shots has not been forthcoming, while McAuliffe said the department spent $30,000 on private vaccines in the last year and would not be seeing those numbers again with this new model.

Also, McAuliffe said he would like to expand a program at the middle school to all schools in the district whereby leftover food from the free breakfast and lunch programs is recovered and delivered to Project Just Because.


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