|Clarksburg Considers Costs of Public Health Coverage|
|By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff|
01:45AM / Thursday, August 09, 2012
|Susan Timberlake of the Berkshire Public Health Alliance explains some of the services available.|
CLARKSBURG, Mass. — The town is considering taking more advantage of the Berkshire Public Health Alliance to coordinate public health issues it is unable to deal with on its own.
Town Administrator Thomas Webb opens bids for the East Road Bridge project. The contract will be awarded on Wednesday morning.
Clarksburg and 20 other towns formed the alliance last November. The mutual aid organization is operated by the member towns and a governing board and is able to apply for grants to aid towns with training and services.
Program Director Susan Timberlake told the Selectmen on Wednesday night that the alliance is now able to offer public health nursing services for areas legally required by the state, such as tobacco stings or dealing with infectious diseases.
The pricing for basic services is based on a flat fee of $250 and a per capita assessment of 75 cents; the "risk pool" (similar to an insurance fund to cover outbreaks or other public health emergencies) is set at $100 and 50 cents. The total is $1,526 a year.
Timberlake said the funds set aside in the risk pool for "catastrophic events" can be accessed by all the participating towns. The goal is to eventually build a reserve fund that will make the pool sustainable. Towns deciding to pull out of the pool will be reimbursed for unused funds they have paid in.
The Board of Health is recommending the town contract for the services and participate in the risk pool, saying it will cover health gaps and be cheaper than contracting with a visiting nurse association.
"When I first started I never envisioned the big, huge gaps in our coverage," said board member Paula Wells. "We're leaving ourselves wide open."
She said outbreaks like salmonella or tuberculosis take a great deal of effort within the community and with local health-care providers. Hospitals and the state once took care of documentation, coordination and quarantine but that has now fallen to towns to do.
"This is way above the scope of what [Chairman] Greg [Vigna] and I can do," said Wells. "We're not medical people."
Vigna agreed, saying contracting the services would benefit the town. "We've had a couple cases already this year on a smaller scale, but if it spreads then we'd be in trouble."
Timberlake said the alliance could step in to help with residents who lack health care by providing services such as checking medication, wellness checks, flu clinics, and other public health matters. The alliance's contracted employees include two sanitarians and two public health nurses.
The Selectmen were interested in the services but Chairman Carl McKinney said the problem was in finding the money to pay for them. The board took the contract for review and asked Timberlake to attend its next meeting for questions.
Wells also reminded residents that Berkshire County Mosquito Control Program has been setting larvicide to curb the mosquito population.
|Board of Health member Paula Wells said larvicide is the most effective method for killing mosquitos. Residents can contact Town Hall to get a larvicide dosage.
The town had voted in 2005 to discontinue the use of pesticides over health concerns. Wells said best method, according to the Centers for Disease Control, was larvicide . Residents needing larvicide "doughnuts" should contact the town administrator. They were also reminded to avoid peak mosquito hours, use repellent, drain standing water and wear long sleeves and pants when possible.
The town pays $4,600 a year to the program, and there has been some discussion of opting out and have town crews apply the larvicide.
In other business, the board opened 10 sealed bids for the reconstruction of the East Road Bridge. Foresight Land Services, which did the engineering design for the bridge, will review the bids and recommend a contractor. The town has about $375,000 available for the long-delayed project.
The lowest total bid was from J.H. Maxymillian of Pittsfield at $286,132.05; the highest was New England Infrastructure of Hudson at $714,225.
The board will award the bid at a special meeting Wednesday, Aug. 15, at 9 a.m. at Town Hall.
The Selectmen also voted to add the duties of principal assessor to the town administrator's job, pending a legal opinion from town counsel. Town Administrator Thomas Webb has real estate experience and will be available on Fridays for assessor work. Funding of about $8,500 has been budgeted for the post.