By Sue Ellen Woodcock
Health officials and other stakeholders from Winthrop, Revere and Chelsea gathered Wednesday morning at the E. B. Newton Center to share ideas on the three communities working in collaboration on health issues.
This was the first meeting of the newly formed North Suffolk Public Health Collaborative, headed up by Jeff Stone, who’s been on the job for a few months. The goal of the collaborative is to pool the resources of the three communities to tackle health issues such as childhood obesity and substance abuse.
Representatives from MGH (Massachusetts General Hospital), EBNHC (East Boston Neighborhood Health Center), NSMHA (North Suffolk Mental Health Associates), Cambridge Health Alliance and CAPIC shared their insights as did the creators of the collaborative, former Winthrop Town Manager James McKenna and Chelsea Mayor Tom Ambrosino. Mayor Brian Arrigo also attended and embraces the idea of working together.
Others in attendance included Revere Cares, the Winthrop and Chelsea boards of health, public health nurses, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, Revere on the Move, and the Winthrop and Revere chambers of commerce, the department of public health, police and other officials.
Stone shared information about upcoming programs on various issues including, workshops for school food providers, a breakfast with the chambers of commerce from all three communities focusing on the opioid crisis and the impact on businesses and employees, a training program for the building trades and more.
“We know health issues know no boundaries,” Arrigo said, adding that opiates have impacted his city and the region. Obesity is another area of concern.
Ambrosino agreed, and it is his hope that the collaborative can tackle one or two items that the municipalities to have the time or resources to engage in.
“We can achieve things together,” McKenna said. “This is a beginning point. What do you want to see us do better?”
Revere Police Chief James Guido noted the lack of facilities and programs for substance use disorder are a serious problem. Homelessness is another issue confronting Revere and again a lack of facilities is an issue.
Michael Mancuso, of EBNHC, agreed that the needs of the community need to be addressed when it comes to childhood obesity and substance-use disorder (whether it’s alcohol or opioids.)
He added that it is also important to deal with the impact of violence in the community. EBCHC is working on developing a neighborhood trauma team and is also concerned with addressing depression, anxiety and other behavioral health issues. It is also looking to increase the number of bilingual health providers and facilities to deal with the opioid epidemic.
Bob Repucci of CAPIC said the asthma rates in Revere and Winthrop have to be looked at and are currently impacting children ages 2-12 years old. Leslie Aldrich of MGH said there are also higher rates of heart disease, substance abuse and respiratory problems.
“There’s strength in numbers when it’s related to Logan Airport,” Aldrich said.