Upper Valley Medical Reserve Corps Has Been Busy in Vermont

MRC Volunteer, Alice W., prepares to vaccinate a client in Randolph, VT

The Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) is a national network of volunteers, organized into local units to improve the health and safety of their communities, especially in times of natural disasters and other emergencies. The MRC network comprises more than 190,000 volunteers in roughly 800 units located throughout the United States and its territories. Now in its 13th year, the Upper Valley MRC (Unit 1776) is one of only a handful of bi-state units in the U.S. and currently has 156 active members.

MRCs Respond to COVID Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has allowed our volunteers to take a particularly visible and active role in the response to the virus. From April to December 2020, Upper Valley MRC members supported weekly district COVID-19 testing clinics in White River Junction and Springfield (VT) helping to triage clients at the sites, assisting with computer-based intake functions, and even performing tests. Our members contributed more than 1,000 hours of volunteer support in these positions.

Now as the COVID-19 vaccine rollout focuses on the immunization of older adults, Upper Valley MRC clinicians are assisting with vaccine administration and clinic support duties as part of weekly district clinics in White River Junction and Randolph. Below, intake worker and MRC volunteer Jed G. sanitizes clipboards for client use.

Volunteers Value Being of Service

MRC volunteer, Jed G., helps sanitize clip boards to keep clients safe,

Richard W., an MRC member who has helped with triage and intake roles, says this about being compelled to volunteer after reading about the MRC in an area newspaper: “I felt a burning desire to use some of my free time to be of service to our state and community to help in any way that I could. I signed up and the experience has been great, and so rewarding.” With similar sentiments, Deborah P. says she has volunteered at the vaccine clinics “to support my fellow Vermonters and my community.”

Kristin B., a clinician serving as a volunteer vaccinator shares, “It’s a privilege and a joy to be able to do something tangible to overcome the pain and suffering caused by COVID-19 infection. It is so satisfying to meet each patient and now that [once fully vaccinated] they’ll be on the road to protection.”

MRC volunteer, Susan M,, helps register clients for vaccine.

Another clinician, Susan M. who is a retired physician’s assistant, offers that she volunteers with the MRC because, “It feels good to utilize my medical skills and engage with my community in this worthwhile and gratifying way.”

MRC Volunteers Still Needed

There is still a need to grow the Upper Valley MRC’s membership to continue in the COVID-19 response, as well as prepare for future emergencies. To learn more about joining the Upper Valley Medical Reserve Corps, please email uppervalleyMRC@gmail.com. Information is also available on our webpage.

Caregivers May Face Isolation This Winter

Sunday Seniors: This winter may be tough for caregivers

By Liz Sauchelli
Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 11/14/2020

In the spring and summer, there was a bit of a reprieve. The warmer weather made it easier for many older adults — and their caregivers — to spend time outside and socialize.

But as the temperatures drop, senior service providers worry about the impact of “going into winter, when isolation becomes more acute,” said Alice Ely, director of the Public Council of the Upper Valley. She spoke during the Aging in Community Quarterly Forum & Town Welfare Officers Symposium, which was held via Zoom last Tuesday.

Melissa Grenier, regional manager for New Hampshire with the Alzheimer’s Association, emphasized that isolation impacts caregivers. READ MORE

PHC Hosts Meeting for Aging in Community Groups and Town Welfare Officers

Numerous towns across the Upper Valley host groups of volunteers dedicated to supporting older adults living in their communities. Some of these towns even have Community or Parish Nurses. According to the Upper Valley Community Nursing Project, the goal of community nursing is to “add a health professional to the informal network of volunteers already providing care for elders, and to facilitate the placement of a nurse in a community to address non-acute needs of elders at home.” These community groups host local events to bring people together, such as monthly luncheons, educational events, and social gatherings. They also work hard to connect people to resources available across the region, such as at Senior Centers and the Aging Resource Center at Dartmouth.

The Public Health Council (PHC) has hosted a quarterly forum for these groups for several years now, with the goal of sharing good ideas, learning about new resources, and building a network.

PHC also hosts periodic meetings for the Town Welfare or Service Officers in our towns who carry out a Town’s mission to support residents in their times of need. These Town Welfare and Service Officers may provide temporary assistance to residents. They also connect people with resources available in the region. Because the issue of isolation for older adults, and especially for people living with, or caring for someone with , dementia is pervasive, our recent Forum, Accessing Dementia Friendly Communities Through Understanding, included these Town Welfare and Service Officers, too.

During the coronavirus pandemic, many older adults are heeding the warnings to stay home and avoid gatherings. This is a wise choice on their part, however, it comes at a cost. The lack of social interaction increases the risk of depression. And when we are not being seen by family members, friends, health care providers, changes in our health status may go unnoticed for too long, as a form of self-neglect sets in. The purpose for the November 10th Forum was to explore the impact of dementia and the needs of caregivers, especially during the pandemic. Over 45 people people from our the region joined the conversation and a number of resources were shared. Several of these resources are listed below.

Understanding Dementia and Supporting Caregivers During the Pandemic


Alzheimer’s Association

To find your local (state) chapter or find resources: alz.org
24/7 Helpline: 800-272-3900

Aging Resource Center, Dartmouth-Hitchcock

For a list of VIRTUAL programs and resources: PROGRAMS
To join the mailing list: SIGN UP  or email AgingCenter@hitchcock.org

Upper Valley Community Nursing Project

To learn more about community and parish nurses — or to find one in your community: uvcnp.org

Senior Centers Adapt to Pandemic

Grafton County Senior Citizens Council
Upper Valley Senior Center (Lebanon)
Mascoma Senior Center
Orford Area Senior Center

Bugbee Senior Center
White River Junction, VT

Thompson Senior Center
Woodstock, VT

Senior Solutions

Council on Aging for Southeastern Vermont

Upper Valley Strong Provides List of Resources for Many Needs

Upper Valley Strong Website
Maintaining Older Adult Health
Food Access

October Was Flu Vaccine Month in the Upper Valley

Medical students from the Geisel School of Medicine provide free flu vaccines in Bradford, VT.

This fall in the Upper Valley there have been many opportunities for residents to get seasonal flu vaccine. This year, getting vaccinated against the flu is more important than ever. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we cannot afford to overburden the health care system with flu-related hospitalizations. Also, because the symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are similar, it is difficult to distinguish the two infections and health care providers may use scarce resources assuming cases are COVID-19 when they are not.

Fortunately, it appears many Upper Valley residents have heeded the warning and gotten their vaccine. Dartmouth-Hitchcock and the Vermont Department of Health both report higher numbers of vaccines given this year over recent years. The Public Health Council is proud to have been part of this effort, providing over 1,350 free flu vaccines in five community drive-thru clinics during the month of October.

This was a true collaborative effort and we want to thank the partners who made these clinics possible. Thank you to the 99 students from the Geisel School of Medicine who volunteered 514 hours of service to administer vaccines. To Dr. Annika Brown who trained the students and recruited eleven of her colleagues from Dartmouth-Hitchcock to supervise the clinics. To Dartmouth-Hitchcock for donating vaccines and clinical supplies. To Novo Nordisk and the Lebanon Rotary Club for providing grants to cover expenses of setting up outdoor clinics. To community partners who helped coordinate and staff the clinics:

  • Creigh Moffett of Rivendell Academy
  • Stephanie Schell of Plainfield
  • Phil Neily of the Town of Enfield
  • Little Rivers Health Care
  • Canaan Elementary School
  • Canaan Fire Department.
  • Members of the Lebanon and Cohase Rotary Clubs who staffed our registration tents.

Cars line up for flu vaccine in Orford.

We are certain to have missed someone on this list of partners because we received so very much support. Our oversight does not diminish our gratitude.

May the seasonal flu vaccine effort next year be less complicated by other factors. But may we never forget how fortunate we are in the Upper Valley to have so many partners working together to protect our community’s health.


Alice Ely, Executive Director
Rudy Fedrizzi, Board Chair

Other News About Seasonal Flu Vaccine from Around the Region

From Weekly VT Governor’s Report (submitted 10-13-2020): Bi-State Collaboration to Combat Flu

“For the past 10+ weeks the White River Junction District has been engaged in a bi-state working group to expand flu vaccination.  This effort includes representation from Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and its affiliates, Geisel Medical School, Visiting Nurse Associations, the Public Health Council of the Upper Valley, the Upper Valley Medical Reserve Corps (also a bi-state group), and the Vermont Department of Health.  Already flu uptake is exceeding previous year volumes.  VT school flu clinics in collaboration with local provider groups like those of Little River Healthcare and Gifford Pediatrics are more robust this year with many providing immunizations to school staff. ”

Dr. Annika Brown and Geisel students prepare flu vaccines in Enfield.

Local Media Share Vital Information

Public urged to get Flu Shot

By Nora Doyle-Burr
Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 10/12/2020

LEBANON — Now is the best time to get a flu shot, a Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center epidemiologist told participants in a virtual community conversation last week about the importance of such vaccinations as the COVID-19 pandemic persists.

Influenza activity often begins to increase in October, peaking between December and February. Because it takes about two weeks following a flu shot to develop immunity, people who wait too long to get their shots may risk getting sicker than they would if they had gotten them earlier, said Dr. Jose Mercado, a hospital epidemiologist at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. READ MORE

NH Officials Stress Need for Flu Shots

Concord Monitor
Published: 8/18/2020

As fall approaches, health officials are worried about an unprecedented flu season in which two potentially deadly respiratory illnesses would stress the same limited health care resources. Getting a flu shot is important now more than ever, state officials say, because the health care system can’t handle two simultaneous outbreaks.

Complicating the issue is that while the flu and COVID-19 are different, they present almost identical symptoms in patients. Beth Daly, the chief of the Bureau of Infectious Disease Control in New Hampshire, said there is virtually no way to distinguish between the two illnesses based on symptoms alone. READ MORE

Windsor Enacts Smoke/Vape Free Policy

As of September 2020, Windsor, Vermont will have smoke/vape free town-owned parks and lands. In addition, any events sponsored by the town or held on town property will fall under the policy. The policy ban includes smoking and vaping of tobacco, nicotine products, and marijuana.

What Prompted The New Policy?

There is no safe level of secondhand smoke. In some circumstances, levels of secondhand smoke exposure outdoors can match those indoors. Secondhand smoke (even outside) can negatively impact health. Several areas in downtown Windsor demonstrate evidence of smoking that is likely impacting nonsmokers using the sidewalk, visiting businesses, or living in apartments near sites of heavy tobacco use.

Cigarette butts accumulating in Windsor’s storm drains.

In August 2017, Mt. Ascutney Prevention Partnership members Alice Stewart and Courtney Hillhouse conducted a visual survey of tobacco litter around Windsor. They took photos of areas with high concentrations of cigarette butt litter and presented their findings to the Windsor Rotary Club. Based on the presentation, the Wild Women of Windsor became interested in cleaning up the litter and conducted a fundraising push to purchase and install buttlers in town. In March 2019, Alice and Courtney created a town survey with questions around support for smoke/vape free town-owned parks and land. They distributed the survey at town meeting and through the Windsor town newsletter.  Of those who responded to the survey:

  • 85% supported smoke-free and vape-free town parks and lands
  • 93% supported smoke-free and vape-free town events

Courtney and Alice shared the survey results with Select Board Chair Heather Prebish and Town Manager Tom Marsh. They had discussions with Heather about her concerns regarding youth vaping, zoning options for age restricted products, and smoke/vape free town parks and lands.

Windsor Select Board Takes Action

Heather invited Alice and Courtney to the June 2019 Windsor Select Board meeting, where they provided the survey results and briefed the board on options to address community concerns. In March 2020, Courtney and Alice met with Heather for a follow-up discussion, in which Heather suggested a second select board presentation. In an April 28, 2020 select board meeting (conducted virtually because of COVID-19), Alice and Courtney presented options around smoke/vape free town-owned parks and land as well as zoning options (i.e., away from schools, daycares, libraries, etc.). for age-restricted products.

The Windsor Select Board conducted follow-up conversations based on the April 28 meeting. Town Manager Tom Marsh reached out to an attorney for advice on policy processes. The select board placed a vote on the agenda for its June 23rd meeting, during which a unanimous vote passed in favor of a policy for smoke/vape free town-owned parks and lands. The policy will go into effect September 2020.

The Windsor Select Board is pleased to have passed the recent smoke/vape-free town parks and land policy. This policy is a significant step towards promoting the health and well-being of our community members and mitigating the negative health effects associated with smoking and vaping. Windsor is a community that offers many outdoor and recreational opportunities and we want to ensure that our residents can enjoy these spaces safely, and free from potential health risks. The passing of this policy is a reflection of putting our community values into action and we’re proud that it won unanimous support. – Heather Prebish, Select Board Chair

Mt. Ascutney Prevention Partnership Sets Sights on More Policy Change To Protect Residents’ Health

Municipalities have a role to play in promoting factors that protect healthy choices and mitigate factors that encourage risk or unhealthy choices. In addition to their policy work on smoke/vape free town-owned parks and lands, Mt. Ascutney Prevention Partnership members will leverage their relationship with the Windsor Select Board to continue policy work on retail bans and buffer zones (around schools, day care centers, libraries, and churches) to prevent children from being exposed to businesses that focus on selling age-restricted products, including tobacco, alcohol, and pornography. These policies will promote health by limiting exposure to second-hand smoke and vapor, reducing youth access, and creating cultures that promote health as a norm.

Submitted by Elizabeth Kelsey, Mt. Ascutney Prevention Partnership

PHC Expands Advocacy Capacity Through Online Resources

In the months following the advocacy training held in March, the Public Health Council worked to build out two online advocacy initiatives: a newsletter and a directory of public policy-related organizations. The organizations highlighted are involved in policy work on the priority health issues for the Upper Valley and operate in either Vermont, New Hampshire, or on the national level. The two resources serve as more informal, on-demand resources for our members and community members. Coupled with advocacy trainings and legislative events we have held over the past year, these two additional forms of outreach help expand the Public Health Council’s capacity to support advocacy. We hope we are now better positioned to reach legislators, public health stakeholders and community members, and better facilitate collaboration on public health policy among them all for the years to come.

Directory of Upper Valley Organizations Dedicated to Public Health Advocacy

To leverage the work and commitment of organizations who are both committed to legislative public health advocacy and are aligned with our priority areas, we created a directory accessible via our website. On the table display, each organization is characterized by which of our priority areas they align with. We have linked to their respective public policy agendas and encourage regional partners and community members to connect with these organizations on policy issues of interest to them.

You can view this resource, as well as other information on our advocacy initiatives here.

Advocacy Newsletter

As a more regular form of outreach to our local legislators, the Public Health Council developed an e-newsletter to clearly communicate our policy goals and interests. We intend to send this out three times a year, mainly to highlight how public policy initiatives affect work in our communities, and to highlight recent advocacy initiatives in the community.

You can view our first newsletter here, or subscribe via the link to our news page, attached here.

Written by Claire Thomas, Dartmouth College Student and Class of ’82 Upper Valley Community Impact Fellow