HUDSON – Hudson has a new Director of Public Health and the Community.
After two years of COVID-19 operations and a potential tipping point in the response to the pandemic, Lauren Antonelli is now looking to the future, with a mix of future challenges and evolutions.
“I am really excited to take on this new role,” he said in an interview with Community Advocate last month.
Nominated Antonelli last month
Antonelli was formally appointed in a Select Board vote on May 16.
His selection capped a hiring process following the resignation of former director Kelli Calo earlier this year.
Calo had been in his role since 2017.
“We have a fabulous team here,” Calo said in March.
“I will miss him so much,” he added.
Chosen as Calo’s successor, Antonelli now heads a department she joined just under two years ago in August 2020.
Prior to joining the Department of Health, Antonelli began working in a substance abuse prevention role with the Allston-Brighton Substance Abuse Task Force in Boston.
She then worked to help homeless people in positions with St. Mary’s Center for Women and Children, also in Boston.
“I’ve been exposed to a lot of things,” Antonelli said of her early career, noting the experience with a diverse clientele in Boston.
Antonelli, who also earned a master’s degree in psychology in 2013, eventually decided to leave Boston for a position in Hudson as coordinator of the regional program for the prevention of substance abuse by young people in the city, where she now lives. she too for about five years.
“It seemed like a really nice choice,” he said of the role of the Department of Health.
Department of health expanded during the pandemic
Initially focused on the prevention of substance abuse in Hudson, Antonelli’s tenure in the city to date has been dominated by the wider COVID-19 pandemic.
By taxing public health professionals, the pandemic also unleashed new grants to expand Hudson’s health department staff as part of a regional network of shared services with a number of communities in the area.
With the circumstances of the pandemic continuing to evolve, that staffing boom now represents a focal point for Antonelli.
There were four full-time employees of the Hudson Department of Health and one part-time employee before the pandemic.
That number now stands at 15 full-time employees, with more part-time people.
Although funding for the new positions was secured until June 2024, the future beyond that point is less certain.
“It is difficult to be still in the very early stages of this, to make it work and then also to think about sustainability [of it]”Said Antonelli.
It keeps an eye on funding sources, expressing optimism about the longevity of these new positions and an inter-municipal shared services model for the future.
“I hope they won’t just drop everything once they make these big investments to make things work,” he said.
By including Hudson and other communities such as Framingham, this model has enabled collaborative work of coronavirus contact tracing, among other efforts, Antonelli explained.
Space constraints remain
Where the topic of funding raises more long-term questions, current space constraints represent a current obstacle to the Department of Health that Antonelli is stepping up to lead.
With no space in the main office, some of the health department staff are working in the Hudson City Hall auditorium when their hybrid schedules require in-person work at City Hall.
With the arrival of the summer months, the lack of air conditioning in that space is further challenging.
“We are practically doing the best of what we have,” said Antonelli.
The Department of Health has allocated ARPA funds to alleviate space constraints. But with some concerns about the sustainability of renting new offices, for example, the next steps remained to be defined from last month.
The medical director is betting on the “next chapter” for the department
Outside of COVID-19 and related personnel changes, Antonelli reiterated his enthusiasm for what is a new phase in the response to the pandemic.
With a sense of normality that has returned after the lifting of the COVID-19 restrictions, Antonelli highlighted a variety of efforts, ranging from ongoing substance abuse prevention work, to mental health services, to working with the business community. ever-expanding Hudson.
“[The pandemic has] it was really the centerpiece, “said Antonelli.” So, now I’m thrilled that this next chapter for me is also the start of a next chapter for the department and the city as a whole, as we get out of COVID a bit. “.
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