BUSINESS BRIEFS: CHP Expands Dental Services, Receives Funding for Food Depot and Family Services; Berkshires receive $252,000 for behavioral health training and support; Berkshire Grown Board Updates

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CHP Launches Expansion to Improve Access to Dental Care for MassHealth Patients

GREAT BARRINGTON Community health programs (CHP) launches a multi-year, $6 million expansion of its dental care servicesto serve more area residents who rely on MassHealth (Medicaid) coverage to pay for their oral health care.

Just over 25,000 Berkshire County residents (about 20% of the population) are covered by MassHealth. But dental care for these patients is often a challenge because only a handful of dental practices in the area accept MassHealth. CHP practices in North Adams, Pittsfield and Great Barrington care for around 4,000 of these patients, but are looking to double that number in the coming years.

This year, CHP will expand practices to North Adams and Pittsfield. In early 2023, CHP will open a new dental practice on Depot Street in Adams. Further afield, the Great Barrington Family Dental Center will also expand.

CHP’s dental expansion is feasible in part because, on January 1, the state increased MassHealth reimbursements by 65%, with some “additional” fees. These increased payments relate specifically to dental care provided by community health centers like the CHP.

Dr. John Brazill, director of dentistry at the CHP, said that oral health is a factor in overall well-being. “Lack of routine dental care can lead to tooth loss, poor diet, poor self-esteem, and difficulties with employment and social interaction,” he said. “And dental issues can cause disabling pain, which can lead to opioid abuse.”

CHP received an initial grant of $523,756 from the Federal Health Services Resource Administration for the new practice at Adams. The CHP will dedicate some of its own funds and additional public and private grants will be leveraged during this multi-year project.

The CHP is also launching the #CHPSmile project to help increase community and community contributions.

—AK

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Foundations donate $70,000 for Food Depot; Greylock adds $10,000 for CHP Family Services

GREAT BARRINGTON — Two family foundations are supporting the construction of a new “food depot” in Community Health Programs’ (CHP) Great Barrington campus, which will accommodate better CHP’ Family Services food and nutrition programs.

In addition, a recent grant of $10,000 from Federal Credit Union Greylock reinforces the CHP’s overall family service efforts, which have increased significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In its first donation to the CHP, the Gilson Family Foundation contributed $55,000 to the project. The foundation is led by Lenox natives Peter Spina and his sister Michelle Schmidt. Longtime CHP supporters Robin and Elizabeth “Buzz” McGraw of Sheffield also donated $15,000 through their family foundation, the Donald C. McGraw Foundation, to complete funding for the construction.

Michelle Derr, CHP’s senior vice president of family services, said the new self-contained food storage facility will have much-needed space for food refrigeration and distribution. “We could never have predicted the impact of COVID-19 on families’ food assistance needs,” Derr said. “And this new food depot will free up our busy Family Services building for people who visit us for other services.”

She added that Greylock’s continued and loyal support of the CHP, including this latest donation of $10,000, continues to improve services for families in the community.

CHP will construct the new food depot building at the Stockbridge Road facility this year.

—AK

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Berkshires receive $252,000 to support behavioral health staff training

PITTSFIELD — MassHire Berkshire Workforce Council received $252,000 in funding for behavioral health workforce training and support in Berkshire County.

The Berkshire Behavioral Health Partnership was recently formed as part of the Berkshire Healthcare Hub to address the ongoing difficulty of hiring and retaining qualified staff in the behavioral health sector. The Partnership is committed to establishing and expanding a comprehensive strategy to address recruitment and retention challenges. Its purpose is to support clinical training; establish a professional training pipeline to encourage and engage new and entry-level workers; and establish a strong network and support system for behavioral health agencies through networking and professional development opportunities.

Working with partners from Brien Center, ServiceNet, Community Health Programs, Berkshire Health Systems and Berkshire Community College (BCC), MassHire Berkshire Workforce Board will oversee a range of programs throughout the year. Funds will be used to provide supports for those who obtain licensure at Center Brien, support supervisors who are already overwhelmed with their day-to-day responsibilities, expand entry-level professional training developed by BCC to encourage pipeline efforts and placement, and to build capacity to engage additional partners and promote behavioral health opportunities in the Berkshires.

This grant is part of the state’s commitment to improve the behavioral health service delivery system in Massachusetts while implementing the Behavioral Health Reform Roadmap. This project is funded by a Behavioral Health Partnership Expansion Grant through the MassHealth Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment (DSRIP) Statewide Investment Program and the RIZE Massachusetts Foundation, Inc. ., and is administered by the Commonwealth Corporation.

—AK

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Berkshire Grown Elects New Officers and Board Members

GREAT BARRINGTON — At its annual meeting, the Grown in Berkshire The Board approved three new Board members and elected. The new officers are Amy Rudnick, president; Peter Platt, Vice President, Tom Curtin, Treasurer, Lee Venolia, Clerk; and Jake Levin, member at large. The organization bid farewell to two longtime board members: Martin Stosiek of Markristo Farm in Hillsdale, New York, and Hester Velmans of Sheffield.

Three Berkshire residents will join the board in 2022:

Kat Han Berkshire Cider Project
Katherine Main. Photo courtesy of Berkshire Grown

Hand of Katherine (Kat) is co-owner and managing director of Berkshire Cider Project, an artisanal hard cider house located at Greylock Works in North Adams. Berkshire Cider Project (BCP) is dedicated to local sourcing, supporting Berkshire County agriculture and celebrating the arts, culture and natural beauty that make Berkshires so special. Founded in 2019, BCP strives to grow locally by hiring its first full-time employees and developing its supply relationships with local orchards and institutions. Their tasting room will reopen in the spring.

Prior to his life in cider making, Hand held several positions in the social impact and sustainability sector. She started as a grants administrator at a small family foundation, then worked in development at the City Parks Foundation. More recently, she worked as a corporate sustainability professional, developing sustainability strategy, reporting and communications for companies such as PepsiCo, Estee Lauder and HP Inc.

Jim Schultz firm red shirt
Jim Schultz. Photo courtesy of Berkshire Grown

Jim Schultz is the main farmer of red shirt farm, a diverse, organic, no-till farm in Lanesborough. He studied small-scale regenerative agriculture at the Sterling Institute, New Alchemy Institute, and Evergreen State College, and apprenticed on several small farms in New England. He put farming on hold to raise two children with his wife Annie, while teaching, coaching and administering in local public schools for 26 years.

Schultz now operates a full-time farm, raising vegetables, pastured hogs, heritage chickens for meat and eggs, and heritage turkeys. He remains passionate about education and hosts four apprentices and the Roots Rising program each year, as well as offering workshops to other farmers and the public. Jim is a member of the Northeast Climate Adaptation Fellowship, a collective of farmers, researchers and technical service providers.

Katy Sparks
Katy Sparks. Photo courtesy of Berkshire Grown

Katy Sparks is the leader and owner of Katy Sparks Culinary Advice, a full-service culinary and hospitality consulting company focused on developing healthy, nutrient-dense, locally sourced recipes and designing sustainable kitchens. She is an award-winning chef and the author of “Sparks in the Kitchen”, published by Knopf. She has spent more than 20 years in the world of New York gastronomy, working her way up the culinary ladder to reach the level of executive chef. She recently moved to the South Berkshires, where she finds daily inspiration from local food producers and growers. Its customers range from food start-ups to sustainably sourced restaurants and nationally recognized retail food stores. Sparks is regularly featured in the food press and has strong ties to national food media.

—AK


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