The Town of Wellesley depends on the active participation of its citizens in governance of the Town. Wellesley has 11 Boards and Committees on the ballot at the Annual Town election each year in March. The 2020 election will be held on March 17.
There is one candidate running for the single open position on the Board of Health. The Board of Health is a three-member elected Board that provides leadership on Town health and human service matters. The mission of the Board is to protect and improve the health and quality of life of the town’s residents and workforce. Like other town boards, Board members receive no payment for their volunteer services.
Although the race is uncontested, we’re always interested in the priorities and goals of Wellesley’s elected officials. We invited candidate Shepard Cohen to answer a few questions about his qualifications and priorities for the Town of Wellesley.
The Swellesley Report: How long have you served on the Board of Health, and in what capacity?
Shepard Cohen: I have been fortunate to have served Wellesley as an elected member of the Board of Health for over 30 years, and as Board chair for the past 20.
SR: What is your background and what qualifies you for the position?
Shepard Cohen: For more than five decades I have been a senior health care administrator and consultant, mainly for Federal, State and local public agencies.
SR: Tell us about some of your accomplishments during your tenure on the Board of Health?
Shepard Cohen: After 30 years, where do I start? Overall, along with my accomplished Board colleagues over the years, we have recruited and retained an outstanding staff; advocated for adequate resources; and set policies and priorities that are science-based and responsive to changing community needs, particularly in the areas of environmental/sanitation and social services/mental health.
SR: How is the Board of Health working toward promulgating regulations for vaping?
Shepard Cohen: Health Department staff have drafted revised vaping and tobacco regulations. We are now watching how the new State comprehensive regulations are implemented and how they will withstand any legal challenges. If then necessary, the Board of Health will promulgate local revisions to its current tobacco regulations.
SR: What has been the impact of marijuana legalization in Wellesley? How will Wellesley handle the potential sale of marijuana in town?
Shepard Cohen: It is unlikely that the Town will allow the sale of marijuana.
SR: How does the Town provide for people with substance use issues?
Shepard Cohen: As might be appropriate based individual circumstances, the Town’s very good community- and school-based counseling, social service and mental health resources are available to address substance abuse issues, including education and awareness. We also collaborate with other Town departments and community agencies. On the Health Department website (Wellesleyma.gov/health) is a mental health resource guide that includes listing of substances abuse resources.
SR: Does the Wellesley Health Department offer free training and Naloxone (Narcan) distribution for community members who are at risk of witnessing or experiencing an overdose? What are your thoughts about that?
Shepard Cohen: With donations of Narcan from Newton-Wellesley Hospital, the Health Department oversees distribution of Narcan to first responders as well as other Town staff. The fire department Emergency Medical Services Coordinator, Dana Gerrans, provides training to a variety of frontline personnel.
SR: Can you talk about the ways Wellesley provides Behavioral Health services for residents? What more can the town do?
Shepard Cohen: The Health Department annual budget includes a sizable subsidy to our wonderful community health agency, Human Relations Services, so that Wellesley residents are not denied mental health services because of financial or insurance issues. This budgeting also provides for funding of a full-time psychologist or social worker outreach worker in the high school and middle school to deal early with any child’s non-school related mental health needs. Importantly, the Health Department staff fortunately now includes a full time senior community social worker and a second social worker, serving all segments of the population.
SR: What is the greatest health related need in Wellesley and what is your hot-button issue?
Shepard Cohen: There is no one “greatest” need or one “hot button” issue. The Board of Health and Health Department bear a wide range of awesome responsibilities to protect and promote the health and wellbeing of townspeople. They range from protecting the food supply, to ensuring summer camp safety, to preventing and controlling communicable diseases, to offering health education and related programs, to preparing for emergencies, and to otherwise assessing the health care needs of the Town and striving to meet documented needs, either directly or In collaboration with a myriad of Town and community health and social service agencies.
Shepard Cohen can be reached by email at [email protected] or by cell at 617-797-SHEP (7437)