PELHAM — Budget allocation for the Quabbin Health District’s Public Health Excellence Grant met with approval at a June 6 meeting of the health district’s Board of Directors at the Pelham Library.

The district serves as a comprehensive regional health department, jointly managed by its associated communities. The PHE allotment is awarded annually to the district, which serves the communities of Belchertown, Ware and Pelham. Within the 120-square-mile radius, the district provides service and assistance to more than 26,000 residents through shared personnel, equipment and varied supply of resources.

Funding for health services in those towns is supplemented by the grant money which comes from American Rescue Fund Act assistance and the public health infrastructure. Over the next three years, PHE funding will provide nearly $325,000 annually for the district’s programs.

Andrea Crete, director of public heath for the district explained the funding’s intent and also provided a look at how the money is utilized locally.

“The [Public Health] Excellence Grant is really to enable shared services; the main goal is for the municipalities to share services,” she said.

Crete also pointed out that as a district, Quabbin has already been sharing services since 1980, prior to the disbursement of the PHE funding. The annual allotment assists the district and more than 300 municipalities within the state maintain staffing and services within their respective areas.

Services funded and covered by the grant allotment include a public health nurse and administrative costs as well as training and credentialing of staff and board members.

The nurse position conducts wellness clinics at Senior Centers as well as health presentations and training sessions around the communities during the year.

Crete said there will be allocations in FY25 directed at promotion and outreach to better inform the covered communities about what the district currently does and what the goals are for the future.

Programming to increase high risk food inspections, [including restaurants and other food providers] to three times a year, engage landlords and property managers in voluntary pre-rental housing inspections and pursue growth in racial and health equity are goals for the next fiscal year.

Continued programs that will be funded with PHE grant money are CPR and First Aid training and Narcan/naloxone availability and education.

Crete said there is a concerted effort to utilize all the available funds each year through approved allocations associated with guidelines. Any unused or non-dedicated monies are returned to the source.

“We’re still trying to spend out some of the money [this year],” she said. “I’m hoping it will be less than $50,000 that we have to give back, we gave back quite a bit last year.”

Another plan for the funding includes the prospect of private well and water testing within the district’s three towns to identify toxins, both natural and industrial based, within the water systems.

William Pula with Pelham’s Board of Health said the testing can reveal the presence of arsenic, E. coli and other hazards and funding could be applied to allow for as many as 20 wells within each town. Pula also supported the position that it made sense to make full use of the available funds.

“We don’t want to give money back,” he said.

Grant funding under the program is expected to run through 2033 and is managed under the Department of Public Health.

Following itemization and discussion, board approval of the PHE budget plan passed without issue.
More information can be found at quabbinhealthdistrict.com.