Public Health Advisory Council Lead
About Our Region
The Greater Nashua Regional Public Health Network is a collaborative working to enhance and improve public health-related services within the region. The Greater Nashua Regional Public Health Network is hosted by City of Nashua, Division of Public Health and Community Services. The focus of Greater Nashua Regional Public Health Network is to coordinate with key stakeholders to develop comprehensive community preparedness and response plans to be able to effectively mitigate and respond to the impacts of a large scale public health emergency.
Public Health Region
The Greater Nashua Public Health Region includes the municipalities of Amherst, Brookline, Hollis, Hudson, Litchfield, Lyndeborough, Mason, Merrimack, Milford, Mont Vernon, Nashua, Pelham, and Wilton. The region is served by two hospitals – St. Joseph Hospital and Southern New Hampshire Health System – and serves a population of 205,765 residents.
Regional Public Health Advisory Council
The Greater Nashua Regional Public Health Network is currently in the process of developing the Greater Nashua Public Health Advisory Council (PHAC). The primary role of the PHAC is to advise the Network regarding the development and implementation of a range of community and public health improvement activities. Included among these activities are planning, training, and response for public health emergencies, implementation of the regional strategic plan for substance misuse prevention and related health promotion, and disease prevention activities.
The PHAC will support the Regional Public Health Network by:
- Identifying regional public health priorities based on assessments of community health;
- Identifying gaps in public health capacity and services and developing strategic responses;
- Providing guidance to regional public health activities; and
- Promoting the coordination of services among partners within the region.
Priorities for Action
- Substance misuse prevention – The Greater Nashua Regional Public Health Network provides infrastructure, leadership, and coordination to increase the number and reach of evidence-based substance misuse prevention programs, policies, and practices implemented in the region. Utilizing an asset-based public health approach, the network coordinator, regional Substance Misuse Prevention Committee, and partners engage and support the business, education, health, safety, government, and community and family supports sectors in the implementation of the region’s strategic plan.
Substance misuse has been identified as a major problem in New Hampshire by the Governor’s Commission with a priority focus on alcohol misuse, marijuana misuse, and prescription drug misuse. There are certain populations that are at higher risk and are therefore considered a priority, such as the youth, young adults, pregnant and parenting women, military personnel and their families, justice involved youth and adults, individuals needing but not receiving treatment, and individuals with co-occurring disorders. The goal of the state is to reduce the percentage of residents misusing substances and to increase the number of residents receiving treatment. What does that mean for the Greater Nashua Region?
The State’s goals for Substance misuse rely on the Regional Public Health Network System as its method of prevention delivery. The Substance Misuse Prevention Leadership Team is part of the Regional Public Health Network System and guides the five Substance Misuse coalitions in the region. The Five Regional coalitions are: Merrimack Safeguard, Nashua Prevention Coalition, Hudson/Litchfield Coalition, Community Action for Safe Teens (CAST), and Pelham Community Coalition. All committees should have representation from the six sectors of the community. These include: Business, Education, Health, Safety, Government, and Community and Family Supports.
The Regional Public Health Networks also have a Substance Misuse Prevention Coordinator whose responsibilities are: building membership and support from communities within the region in support of its mission; continually collecting and sharing data on the scope of substance use and consequences through interviews, surveys, data collection, and focus groups; using the gathered information to form a strategic plan that will address consumption and consequence patterns in our communities; implementing a plan that supports evidence-based prevention strategies; conducting ongoing, comprehensive evaluation and refinement of all prevention efforts; and ensuring culturally sensitive processes and effective sustainability planning for all coalition efforts.
Over the past year, the Regional Coalitions have coordinated several events with the goal of substance misuse prevention, along with programs that have been implemented and policies that have been incorporated into educational and safety settings. Events that have taken place in the region for substance misuse prevention are: Red Ribbon Week, Prescription Drug Drop Boxes for Take-Back events, Buyer’s Beware campaign, and Life of an Athlete Program, among many others. On April 27, 2013, a drug take back event was held in the State of New Hampshire. The 10 counties in New Hampshire collected over 5,600 pounds of expired or unused medications. The final tally on this was 5,681 pounds which is a great number. The improper disposal of expired or unused medications is both a problem for many people and an opportunity for others to misuse prescription medications. April is around the corner along with another opportunity for the Greater Nashua area to participate again in the Take Back event. The 2014 Rx Take Back Event will take place on April 26, 2014.
Like all other initiatives, substance misuse prevention needs your help and support to continue with all its events and programs. Is substance misuse prevention an issue that you are passionate about? If it is, please contact the Regional Misuse Prevention Coordinator, Lisa Vasquez, at 603-589-4529 to discuss the possibility of joining the Leadership team.
- Continuum of Care – Greater Nashua Regional Public Health Network provides leadership and coordination in developing a comprehensive, effective, and well-coordinated substance misuse services Continuum of Care (CoC). This work includes convening subject matter experts and stakeholders to identify assets and gaps and to develop regional plans that initiate cooperative actions that increase awareness of current services, remove barriers to accessing services, increase capacity of existing services, and develop new services to fill gaps. The Greater Nashua Regional Public Health Network has a strong cohort of community partners who are committed to playing a key role in substance misuse prevention, intervention, treatment, and recovery efforts. This cohort meets regularly through regional prevention coalitions, the Integrated Delivery Network for the region (led by Southern NH Health), the Mayor’s Opioid Task Force in Nashua, and the public health network leadership team. Suicide prevention, mental health, and substance use disorder are the top three public health priorities for the region, as indicated by the Community Health Assessment completed in 2014. For more information about Greater Nashua Regional Public Health Network’s work regarding the continuum of care, please contact Aly McNight, the Substance Misuse Continuum Facilitator.
- Public health emergency preparedness (PHEP) – Greater Nashua Regional Public Health Network partners provides leadership and coordination to improve the readiness of partners to mount an effective response to public health emergencies and threats. Partners include hospitals, businesses, social service organizations, municipal emergency management directors, and other governmental, public health, and health care entities to plan for public health emergencies and ensure the provision of public health, medical, and behavioral health services before, during, and after an incident. Network partners have worked diligently to improve the Network’s preparedness and increase the capacity of the Network to respond to public health emergencies. Regional partners develop and implement a training plan that includes planning activities, trainings, workshops, and exercises.
Members of the Greater Nashua Regional Public Health Network collaborate to develop and maintain a Regional Public Health Emergency Annex (RPHEA) that describes critical operational functions and what entities are responsible for carrying them out. The RPHEA takes an “All Hazards” approach to preparing for, responding to, and recovering from a public health emergency. The RPHEA clearly describe the policies, processes, roles, and responsibilities that municipalities and partner agencies carry out before, during, and after any public health emergency. The plan is comprised of a base plan and supplemented by function-specific appendices. Current RPHEA Appendices include: Multi-Agency Coordination Entity (MACE), Points of Dispensing (POD), Public Information and Warning, Medical Surge, Mass Fatality Management, Volunteer Management, and Isolation & Quarantine. The plan includes contact information for all regional partners, including those who would be integral in a response to a public health emergency, media outlets, municipal and non-governmental organizations, and state partners. The RPHEA is compliant with the Incident Management System and includes reference materials to be used in an emergency.
There are several function-specific workgroups under the umbrella of the Greater Nashua PHAC that are designed to meet the deliverables of the PHEP program. Current workgroups include the Media Advisory Group, the Healthcare Emergency Response Coalition, an Infection Control and Prevention Workgroup, and a regional Local Emergency Planning Committee. These workgroups are coordinated and/or co-facilitated by the Regional PHNS/Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) Coordinator and Epidemiologist.
As the contractor for the Greater Nashua PHEP program, City of Nashua, Division of Public Health and Community Services (DPHCS) maintains a stockpile of equipment to be used in the event of a public health emergency. This stockpile includes mass vaccination/POD supplies, as well as medical and administrative supplies necessary to stand up an Alternate Care Site (ACS) in a large scale emergency that exceeds the surge capacity of the healthcare system, such as an influenza pandemic. Examples of some items that have been stockpiled include cots, two way radios, emesis basins, disposable bedding, oxygen concentrators, medical gowns and masks, extension cords, and office supplies. During small scale emergencies, such as localized flooding, these supplies can also be deployed to areas of need, such as supporting regional shelters in serving residents with functional needs. The Regional Public Health Network maintains a fleet of three trailers that are stocked and staged for deployment. As part of this pre-staging, sets of “POD Bins” – storage bins containing all of the administrative supplies necessary for the set-up and operations of a POD – have been assembled and are pre-staged on trailers and in our warehouse facility for deployment should the need arise.
During the response to the 2009 H1N1 Pandemic, regional partners in the Greater Nashua Public Health Region participated in twelve large-scale mass dispensing clinics. All clinics were operated according to the plans included in our Regional Points of Dispensing Appendix. Clinics operated with an average of 100 staff and were open for 4 hours. Through these clinics, we were able to vaccinate over 3,000 people. Two clinics had throughput of over 850 individuals during the 4 hour operational period. Most clinics used nursing students to staff the 8 screening and 20 vaccination stations at each clinic. This partnership was a useful exercise and experience for the Division and student nurses and faculty, as well as all other regional partners that participated. The experience gained by partners during the 2009 H1N1 response will help the region in being able to succeed at efficiently planning, operating, and evaluating POD operations in the future.
- Emergency volunteers – The Greater Nashua Regional Public Health Network supports the efforts of our local Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) and Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) in their efforts to recruit, train, and deploy volunteers. The CERTs/MRCs support local emergency responders in responding to public health and other emergencies throughout the region. These volunteers include medical, public health, and general professionals. For more information about the CERTs and MRCs within the Greater Nashua Region, please follow the links below: