Hull health officials join crowd urging: ‘Band-aids are for cuts, not for budgets’
The message was clear: The time to establish a sustainable state funding mechanism to support local health departments and boards of health, including Hull’s, is now.
Hull Public Health Director Joyce Sullivan, Public Health Nurse Joan Taverna, and state Rep. Joan Meschino, who lives in town, were among the 130 participants at a recent rally on the steps of the State House in support of pending legislation that, if passed, would accelerate equity and effectiveness in local and regional health systems, including the Hull Board of Health. The overall theme was: “No more band-aids. Band-aids are for cuts, not for budgets.”
The rally “went very well,” Sullivan told The Hull Times. “There was a big presence from various health organizations as well as some senators and state representatives [including our own].” The goal, she said, is to be proactive, not reactive – “not to wait until we are in a crisis and then throw a band-aid on.”
Meschino said she was pleased to be part of this effort to support local public health departments and officials. “For far too long, local public health departments have lacked the investment necessary to meet the emerging public health needs in our communities,” she said. “Only with dedicated, sustainable funding from the state can local departments of public health build capacity to carry out crucial daily operations, to respond to public health emergencies such as COVID-19, and to coordinate regionally with neighboring communities.”
The driving force behind the legislation is the COVID-19 pandemic, which health officials say revealed that the local public health system is not adequately structured, staffed, or funded to meet large-scale public health challenges, despite the dedication shown by local health staff and volunteers who served on the front lines throughout the crisis.
According to the Massachusetts Public Health Association, the state’s “decentralized approach to delivering public health services leads to extreme variability across municipalities, and this puts the entire state at risk.”
Passage of the pending legislation, named the “Statewide Accelerated Public Health for Every Community Act,” would provide state funding to:
* ensure minimum public health standards for every community;
* increase capacity and effectiveness by encouraging municipalities to share services;
* create a uniform data collection and reporting system; and
* establish a sustainable state funding mechanism to support local boards of health and health departments.
All these measures would provide support for, and help strengthen, the Hull Board of Health and what it offers to the community.
With regard to the shared services aspect, possibilities include grants that could provide additional resources in collaboration with other communities to fund, for example, a shared social worker/epidemiologist/mental health services, among other options, according to Sullivan.
“We are working together with the towns of Hingham, Cohasset, and Weymouth, the Massachusetts Health Officers Association, and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council to discuss some of these options” that would be available if the legislation passes, Sullivan said.