To the Editor:
It is my understanding that there will be an article in the Rochester Town Meeting Warrant proposing for Rochester to withdraw from the Marion Rochester Regional Health District. This article is in direct opposition to the recommendations of the members of both the Marion and Rochester Boards of Health. I believe that if this article passes it will severely impact the services that the Boards of Health provide to both the towns. It will also impact from a financial point of view because many of the services that we provide jointly will now be each town’s responsibility. It would not be fiscally responsible to pass this article. As a district we have been responsible stewards of our budget, which is an infinitesimal part of the overall budget.
There is a plethora of evidence from both the state and federal governments stating that regional health services are strengthened through shared staff and service agreements. Our Marion Rochester Regional Health District has been cited as a model. Our district performance is consistent with national research demonstrating the value of districts in achieving economic delivery of essential public health services.
We have shared a Health Director since the establishment of the district in 1989. Karen Walega has served in this position. She has worked with both boards of health and is familiar with the towns, the residents, and their problems. Because we essentially work as a team there are many services, supplies, and equipment that we share. This results in a significant savings in both cost and time. Both of the boards and staff work collaboratively and support community endeavors such as the flu clinics, Medical Reserve Corps, and shelter trainings. Additionally, because of the district Rochester residents have access to the syringe and drug disposal programs in Marion. This pooling of resources and expertise enhances the delivery of public health services for all residents.
As a district, the availability of grants is enhanced. The recycling grant was a direct result of regionalization. We are currently applying for a grant for the provision of shingles vaccine for our residents and a grant for shelter equipment.
Many people are unaware of the many facets and responsibilities of the Board of Health – mosquito control, septic inspections, beach testing, restaurant inspections, housing inspections, licensing recreational camps, infectious disease control, monitoring, and follow-up.
It would be irresponsible from both a fiscal and health service point of view to be supplying these services as individual towns when, as a district, we have the ability to collaborate and provide far more comprehensive services.
Elizabeth S. Dunn
Marion Board of Health
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