By Sue Ellen Woodcock
Tuesday night subcommittees of the Town Council voted to support the Town Manager’s plan to restructure the town’s health department.
But one area of the town’s health was not included in the proposal. The town’s Medical Reserve Corp, which assists in the event of a health emergency. Not only do they volunteer during emergencies they also conduct flu clinics, screenings and health education.
Several months ago when a fire in town displaced 57 people it was the MRC that set up a shelter at the senior center. During the Tall Ships they were set up and ready to serve at Deer Island.
Jean Maggio, coordinator for Winthrop’s Medical Reserve Corp, asked if the MRC could be included in the new department. She said the group is all volunteer and someone needs to oversee it. She urged the councilors to hire someone for 10-12 hours a week to attend to administrative needs.
“Our job is to prepare the community for a disaster,” Magggio said. “We feel totally forgotten.”
She noted that the people she works with in town are even trained in what to do in the event of an anthrax attack.
Al Legee, head of inspectional services, said they were instrumental at the Governor’s Drive fire and they also operate the town’s flu clinic.
Fire Chief Paul Flanagan, who heads up the town’s emergency management task force, said the ratio of staff to the population of the town has never been correct.
“A lot of citizens are being served by the MRC,” Flanagan said.
Councilor Heather Engman favors the plan and would like to see a 1-5 year plan to further guide the department. She also urged to be ready with new grant applications.
Councilor Nick Delvento, who sits on the Rules and Ordinance Subcommittee, said the town’s charter only allows the committee to disapprove the reorganizational plan
Once approved the new Office of Public Health and Social Services will be set up. Health related licensing and enforcement will be with the Inspectional Services Department.
Under the new administration there will be a new director of public health to oversee the department.
Town Manager James McKenna presented the council with the idea of a new health department last week. The subcommittee reviewed the proposal and will urge the council to accept it at its next meeting.
Included in this reorganization are the town’s recovery coaches for the CLEAR program. The new office will oversee this program. The new person will oversee the Substance Use Disorder Program, the public health nurse, coordinate the annual flu clinic and other health clinics, disease monitoring and control services, mental health disorder monitoring and services, and collaborate with the town’s public safety team as needed. Also work with the new director of the Regional Health Initiative with Revere and Chelsea.
Inspectional Services will continue to inspect: restaurants, trash, sanitation and housing codes, swimming pools, beach testing, burial certificates, farmer’s market, tobacco, mosquito control, vermin control, bed bug inspections, hoarding, blasting and environmental health.
As for staffing, there will be a clinical administrator (nurse manager) who reports to the town manager. A clinical social worker (10 hours a week, funded by a grant), a per diem public health nurse, a recovery coach supervisor, and two recovery coaches (male and female).
The new department will partner with CASA, North Suffolk Mental Health and CAPIC to support social services.
For more information about the MRC call 617-846-1740.