In a time when state and community budgets are being stretched beyond limits, is it a good idea to think about regionalizing public health services? The MetroWest Community Health Care Foundation thinks so.
In a preliminary stage of exploration, eight of the area's smaller towns have been invited to meet with officials to discuss the possibility of health care regionalization as a way to save money. To add another spark to the discussion, a new state law has recently reformed how regional public health districts are to be created.
Ashland, Holliston, Hopkinton, Sherborn, Sudbury, Wayland, Lincoln and Weston have been asked to participate in a March 17 meeting to see if there is adequate interest in pursuing the possibility of regionalization. It seems that in a time of state and local budget constraints, perhaps having one board of health for each town could be considered as overkill.
Rather than having each individual town taking on the responsibility and expense of every health concern, the idea is to pool the efforts of a number of towns, particularly on matters such as restaurant inspections and nurse's services. Another issue for consideration is how a regional health agency could have staff on call 24 hours every day of the year.
Additionally, there are concerns about preventative kinds of activities such as smoking cessation and curbing substance abuse that could have positive effects and improve the public health.
A law that was recently passed allows towns to join an existing regional health district which is something they could not do in the past. It also gives local boards of health voting power on creating a regional district. Previously, only Town Meetings could vote on the idea.
At the present time, the longest standing multi-community collaboration is the Nashoba Associated Boards of Health (NABH) which was created in 1931 and serves fourteen municipalities located in the central part of the state.
Perhaps it could serve as an example of something more to come.Technorati Profile