More than five years ago, the leaders of Winthrop, Chelsea, and Revere had the idea to establish a Health Collaborative that would serve the three communities and address issues ranging from wellness programs that include flu prevention, smoking prevention, and childhood obesity to the more serious issue of opioid abuse.
However, the idea languished until Tuesday when the officials from the three communities officially signed the agreement establishing a Health Collaborative Director and Board that will address the health issues in our community.
Last week the Transcript reported in a story how the opioid crisis is still claiming far too many of our citizens. While deaths from overdosing in Revere have decreased from 26 to 14 opioid deaths have increased in Winthrop from three to seven deaths in one year and in Chelsea from seven to 18 deaths over the same one year period..
Make no mistake, as our population ages with longer life spans and our children become more sedentary, the need for wellness and opioid crisis programs is vital.
What is really encouraging to see is that the officials in these three communities recognize that financial resources are scarce and that the need to combine common functions whenever possible is the wave of the future.
Noting that the population of these three communities combined is about the same number as a city such as Cambridge, having one joint director means that each community will pay far less and yet be able to be competitive in salary with a larger city to have a far more experienced person than if they did it alone. The salary range for this new position will be $80-$90,000 that would be very hard for a single community to afford. Winthrop’s share in the coming year will be $18,000.
“This allows us to pool resources and tackle complex and common challenges that don’t stop at our boarders, such as opioid addiction,” said Winthrop Board of Health Chairman Nick LoConte.
He added that this is also a way to have the collaborative communities compete for grant money that larger municipalities tend to get. Revere Public Health Director Nick Catinazzo said, “We’ll still have the local health departments, but this director focuses more on wellness issues, which we really don’t have the time to address. It’s not going to be a small job. I think a new director is a good thing.”
So do we.