Southwick Board of Health receives grant for COVID-19 work

Tammy Spencer, Southwick’s new health director, answers questions from the Board of Health during her Dec. 3 interview. (HOPE E. TREMBLAY/THE WESTFIELD NEWS)

SOUTHWICK – The Board of Health received $6,700 from the Department of Public Health in partnership with Pioneer Valley Planning Commission to support its efforts against the COVID-19 outbreak.

The grant is a part of $250,000 in additional funding to local boards of health in the region.
Southwick Health Director Tammy Spencer said the grant will help to supplement the hours that Public Health Nurse Kate Johnson is already working, and for any supplies that she may need.
Spencer said the work includes case tracking, case monitoring, and updating with the state Office for Local and Regional Public Health.
PVPC planners have now conducted 31 municipal needs assessments for boards of health – the local governing bodies charged with protecting and improving the health and wellbeing of a given community’s residents – to determine how this state funding will be distributed. Spencer said the town filled out a needs assessment, which determined the level of funding they would receive.
Granville Board of Health received $2,800, and Tolland, $1,100 under the same program.
In a press release, PVPC stated the funding is intended to support surveillance and case identification; monitoring of travelers; data management related to COVID-19 and activities; isolation and quarantine; surge staffing, including costs to cover overtime and backfill for town employees or contractors; risk communications support; and public health coordination with healthcare systems.
An additional $250,000 is anticipated from the Department of Public Health in the near future to further support these local efforts by way of the Commission. Spencer said she was told the grant is half of what the town will receive.
Spencer, who started the position in January, admitted the emergency has been somewhat of “a baptism by fire.”
“It’s a great way to learn who all our team members are. I could not have asked for a better team to work with,” Spencer said.
PVPC Executive Director Kimberly H. Robinson said working with the DPH and the towns on the grant is a part of their mission. “The hardworking planners of the PVPC entered public service to support our communities in good times and bad and we’re honored to be able to work with state officials to get these precious dollars into the hands of our on-the-ground partners in local boards of health across the Valley this week,” Robinson said.
The PVPC is the state-designated regional planning agency for the 43 cities and towns of Hampden and Hampshire Counties.

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