Submitted by Bedford Youth and Family Services
Community Health Network Area 15 (CHNA 15), also known as the Northwest Suburban Health Alliance, just awarded its first collaborative grant to Bedford, MA for Hoarding Case Management.
In a project funded through a CHNA 15 Determination of Need (DoN), funds from Winchester Hospital and proposed by Bedford Youth and Family Services and the Bedford Board of Health will provide active case management in conjunction with Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership’s (MBHP) Hoarding and Sanitation Initiative to address the health, safety, mental health, and isolation of hoarding families in Bedford and Burlington.
The collaboration involves both the Bedford and Burlington Hoarding Task Forces, as well as Eliot Community Human Services and Minuteman Senior Services.
According to Randi Epstein, CHNA 15 Coordinator, all of the applications for this first-ever collaborative grant included excellent ideas that represented strong collaborations and addressed one or two of the CHNA 15 priority areas. Those priority areas are depression and anxiety, substance abuse, domestic violence, isolated residents, access to healthy foods, and obesity and overweight.
Though the competitive process was a difficult decision for their Review Committee, Epstein said in the award notification, “Bedford Board of Health and Bedford Youth and Family Services have already made great strides towards addressing the issue of hoarding in your community, and the Steering Committee joins me in wishing you much success as you move forward to enhance and expand your work through this project and collaboration.”
Hoarding is a mental health disorder characterized by the “acquisition of, and failure to discard, a large number of possessions that appear to be useless or of limited value” (Frost, 1996). Because those suffering from hoarding have difficulties processing information, form strong emotional attachments to objects, and avoid seeking help, clutter often builds to a point where health and safety become serious concerns and daily activities are impaired.
Approximately 15 million people in the United States, equaling three to five percent of the population, suffer from hoarding (MBHP Status Report, p. 1, Samuels, 2008). Taking into account the current population of Bedford (14,000) and Burlington (25,000), there could be a minimum of 420 people in Bedford and 750 people in Burlington alone with a hoarding issue. While not every hoarding household may be a current or future safety risk, or come to the attention of municipal officials, we know from police and fire reports that concerns are more widespread than are currently identified and involved with services.
The strategies involved in the grant include identifying at risk hoarding households based on referrals in both communities from police, fire, Health, Youth and Family Services and Council on Aging, determining if code enforcement or Sanitary Code violations exist; engagement of the identified household through outreach from police safety officer or other outreach workers, a home assessment to determine problem areas and set mitigation priorities, and active case management to address any identified hoarding, physical and emotional safety, mental health issues, and social isolation.
CHNA 15 is one of 27 Community Health Networks across Massachusetts created by the Department of Public Health in 1992. Active since that time, CHNA 15 is a partnership between the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Regional Center for Healthy Communities, residents, hospitals, local service agencies, schools, businesses, boards of health, municipalities, and other concerned citizens who work together through local collaborations to:
- identify health needs of member communities,
- find ways to address those needs, and
- improve the social and physical health of the community.
CHNA 15 is composed of citizens from Acton, Bedford, Boxborough, Burlington, Carlisle, Concord, Lexington, Lincoln, Littleton, Wilmington, Winchester and Woburn. Participation is open to those interested in joining others to work toward the goal of healthier communities.