Plan looks to ‘make a lasting impact on health’ in next five years

Lynne Feldman of LifePath speaks at a Community Health Improvement Plan discussion at the John W. Olver Center in Greenfield on Thursday.

Lynne Feldman of LifePath speaks at a Community Health Improvement Plan discussion at the John W. Olver Center in Greenfield on Thursday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Phoebe Walker of the Franklin Regional Council of Governments speaks at a Community Health Improvement Plan discussion at the John W. Olver Center in Greenfield on Thursday.

Phoebe Walker of the Franklin Regional Council of Governments speaks at a Community Health Improvement Plan discussion at the John W. Olver Center in Greenfield on Thursday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Lynne Feldman of LifePath speaks at a Community Health Improvement Plan discussion at the John W. Olver Center in Greenfield on Thursday.

Lynne Feldman of LifePath speaks at a Community Health Improvement Plan discussion at the John W. Olver Center in Greenfield on Thursday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Phoebe Walker of the Franklin Regional Council of Governments speaks at a Community Health Improvement Plan discussion at the John W. Olver Center in Greenfield on Thursday.

Phoebe Walker of the Franklin Regional Council of Governments speaks at a Community Health Improvement Plan discussion at the John W. Olver Center in Greenfield on Thursday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

By DOMENIC POLI

Staff Writer

Published: 02-09-2024 2:40 PM

GREENFIELD — Representatives from organizations and towns across the region gathered at the John W. Olver Transit Center on Thursday afternoon to kick off a new five-year Community Health Improvement Plan, or CHIP.

The Franklin County/North Quabbin CHIP Network, a 300-member group founded in 2016 and hosted by the Franklin Regional Council of Governments (FRCOG), has completed two planning cycles prior to this one. A CHIP is a plan made for a set period of time based on the results of a community health needs assessment. This newest one includes 14 health improvement strategies based on the region’s needs.

Phoebe Walker, FRCOG’s director of community services, explained to the 35 guests in attendance how a CHIP works and how FRCOG chose its priorities for 2024 through 2028. CHIP Steering Committee members took turns outlining those priorities, which range from health care quality and access to employment and income to housing and transportation.

“This new Community Health Improvement Plan gives us a roadmap for five years of collaboration on strategies that will make a lasting impact on health in our region. We are excited to get to work,” Walker wrote in an email. “It was wonderful to have so many sectors of our community together to kick off this work. We had representatives from health care, housing, parent education, transportation, business, education, food and farms, the recovery community, local public health and more.”

Priorities over the next five years include diversifying the area’s housing stock, and developing age- and dementia-friendly action plan strategies for outdoor spaces and buildings, transportation and housing. There will also be a focus on reducing housing barriers caused by eviction or a criminal past.

Attention will also be paid to food insecurity rates and gaps in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) coverage. Food insecurity rates range from 3.9% to 14% of town populations in Franklin County.

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FRCOG’s advocacy will include supporting the Spouses as Caregivers bill, which would allow a spouse to be hired as a caregiver if requested by the patient, just as other family relatives are permitted to serve as caregivers. This bill, filed in the Senate by Sen. Jo Comerford, is supported by AARP Massachusetts.

CHIP progress report meetings are scheduled for 1 to 2:30 p.m. on April 11 and Oct. 10.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-930-4120.