The Public Health Council of the Upper Valley continuously looks to expand upon its three guiding principles: collaboration, education, and advocacy. Our organization’s inaugural legislative breakfast held on September 16th at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, catalyzed reflection and growth in all three of these areas.
In terms of collaboration, the Public Health Council views communication and bi-state cooperation as paramount to addressing public health concerns in the Upper Valley. Through the relationship building that occurs at an event like this, the Public Health Council hopes to encourage collaboration among New Hampshire and Vermont legislators, as well as with the Public Health Council and our many partners. With regard to education, the Public Health Council sees immense value in facilitating educated policy creation. By allowing for discussion between local service providers and legislators, the Public Health Council aims to inform legislators about the most pressing public health concerns in our region. And lastly, this event helped the Public Health Council expand its capacity for advocacy and public policy work, through the relationship building with local legislators, and the extensive follow up work we have done since the event.
Planning for this event took place in many forms and began nearly a year in advance. We conducted focus groups with numerous partners and stakeholders, which helped us develop a format for the event, an invitee list, and desirable outcomes.
The event lasted two hours and consisted of round table discussions focused on one of six Public Health Council priority areas: Availability of Primary Care Services, Health Care for Seniors, Gender Based Violence, Access to Mental Health Care Services, Substance Misuse and Addiction, and Child Abuse and Neglect. Prior to the event, we asked each legislator to give us their top three table choices, from which we assigned them to two for the breakfast. A subject matter expert as well as a table facilitator led each of the six discussions; they each had extensive experience working on the specific topic in the Upper Valley region. The subject matter experts informed each discussion from their experience working within the specific subject area, and the public policy difficulties they see in their day-to-day work. The discussions lasted about thirty minutes, and volunteer recorders captured the conversation point.
- Richard Abel: NH Representative, District 13
- Susan Almy: NH Representative, District 13
- Tim Briglin: VT Representative, Windsor-Orange-2
- Alison Clarkson: VT State Senator, Windsor District
- Michael Cryans: Executive Councilor, NH District 1
- Carl Demrow: VT Representative, Orange-1
- Ned Gordon: NH Representative, District 9
- Jim Harrison: VT Representative, Rutland-Windsor-1
- Martha Hennessey: NH State Senator, District 5
- Timothy H. Josephson: NH Representative, District 11
- Charlie Kimbell: VT Representative, Windsor-5
- Jim Masland: VT Representative, Windsor-Orange-2
- Mary Jane Mulligan: NH Representative, District 12
- Alice Nitka: VT State Senator, Windsor District
- Brian M. Sullivan: NH Representative, District 1
- Linda Tanner: NH Representative, District 9
Subject Matter Experts and Facilitators:
- Erin Barnett: Dartmouth Trauma Interventions Research Center
- Nancy DuMont: Bayada Health Care
- Laurie Harding: Upper Valley Community Nursing Project
- Sara Kobylenski: Consultant to the Couch Family Foundation
- Kata Lamphere: Health Care and Rehabilitation Services
- Angie LeDuc: Community Health Improvement, Dartmouth Hitchcock Population Health
- Dana Michalovic: Good Neighbor Health Clinic, Red Logan Dental Clinic
- Alison Morgan: Service Link, Grafton County Senior Citizens Council
- Kate Rohdenburg: WISE of the Upper Valley
- Susan Seidler: Stepping Stone, and Next Step Peer Support and Respite Centers
- Melanie Sheehan: Community Health Mount Ascutney Hospital
- Heather Wilcoxon: Health Care and Rehabilitation Services
In the coming months, the Public Health Council plans to take the actionable points which came from this breakfast to further build our relationship with local legislators and foster collaboration between service providers and legislators to inform positive changes to public policy in the future. The bullets below provide brief information on what we are currently pursuing:
- A series of advocacy trainings for Public Health Council Partners and community members;
- Policy Briefs timed in accordance with legislative sessions;
- Using our website to connect our partners and legislators with facts, best practices, and public health advocacy groups in NH and VT, such as the NH and VT Public Health Associations;
- Legislative Breakfasts hosted every two years;
- A relationship with Dartmouth College’s Policy Research Shop, with cost/benefit analyses provided to legislators when questions arise on certain policy changes; and
- There is some potential for the creation of a bi-state council between VT and NH legislators which the Public Health Council acting as a convener or partner. This idea needs further exploration.
For more details of the conversations at the event, view the PHC Legislative Breakfast Table Discussion Notes attached here.
— Submitted by Claire Thomas, Dartmouth College ’82 Upper Valley Community Impact Fellow