Community Notes

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The Martha’s Vineyard Partnership for Health will kick off a free six-week workshop series next month to help people with chronic health conditions, such as chronic pain, depression, diabetes, asthma, arthritis, and high blood pressure. Beginning September 13, sessions will be held weekly on Saturdays from 10 am to 12:30 pm at the Oak Bluffs Library.

The Chronic Disease Self-Management Program (My Life, My Health) was developed by Stanford University. The program’s goals are to empower people affected by chronic diseases to self-manage their care to help them live a healthier, active, and independent life through lifestyle and behavior changes, according to a press release.

Participants will learn techniques to help them deal with the problems, frustrations, fatigue, pain, and isolation that sometimes accompany a chronic health condition, according to the workshop teachers, Rebecca Kline, a registered nurse, and Doreen Anderson, a certified health coach.

The sessions offer simple tools and interventions to help people better manage their health conditions, reduce the risk of falling, and improve nutrition and physical and mental health.

Participants will learn appropriate exercises for maintaining and improving strength, flexibility, and endurance. Medication use and skills for communication between family, friends, and medical professionals also are addressed.

Pre-registration is required. Call 508-269-9044 to register by phone, or leave a message to request a registration form by mail or email.

MV Partnership for Health is a chronic disease management program run by Island Health Care and the Vineyard Health Care Access Program. The Partnership is funded by the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital Community Health Initiative.

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Daybreak Clubhouse, a program of Martha’s Vineyard Community Services, invites the Island community to join members and staff at the home of Paul and Linda Condlin, 21 Katama Farm North Road, Edgartown, on Saturday, August 16, from 4 to 7 pm for hors d’oeuvres, music, and presentations by Daybreak members.

A $30 entry fee for the event will directly fund educational scholarships for members, according to a press release. Scholarships have been used by Daybreak members for piano lessons and courses at Featherstone Center for the Arts, Cape Cod Community College and others. Daybreak Clubhouse is a consumer-run recovery-oriented psychosocial rehabilitation program for those with mental illness, providing support to help individuals enjoy and fully participate in their community.

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The Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank is seeking a caretaker for its Wapatequa Woods Reservation on the Oak Bluffs-Tisbury town line. The position includes housing.

“The caretaking position calls for 19 hours of work each week managing the Land Bank’s  Wapatequa Woods reservation plus several nearby conservation properties, under the supervision of the Land Bank foreman,” according to a press release.  “A rent-in-lieu-of-wages agreement has been prepared and prospective applicants are urged to read it in order to learn the extent of the position’s duties and responsibilities. The agreement calls for a term of two years.”

Documents are available for review on the Land Bank website (mvlandbank.com), or call 508-627-7141 for more information. It is recommended that applicants attend an on-premises site-visit scheduled for Wednesday, August 20, at 8 am; directions are found on the website. Applications must be received by 3 pm, Friday, August 29.

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Thimble Farm, experimenting in hydroponics, is looking for volunteers.

Island Grown Initiative is looking for volunteers for the hydroponics greenhouse at Thimble Farm, building new systems, maintaining our current systems, seeding, harvesting, cleaning. No experience is necessary. Everyone can volunteer and the staff will show volunteers what to do. People who are interested should contact farm manager Keith Wilda at 508-687-9621.

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The 5th Annual Walter Cronkite Awards will take place Tuesday, August 5, 5–8 pm, at the home of Karen and David Brush in Edgartown (the former home of Mr. Cronkite). This year’s ceremony, which benefits the Martha’s Vineyard Youth Leadership Initiative (MVYLI) will feature speakers Bob Schieffer of CBS News and Christopher Callahan at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University. Awards will be presented to Dr. Sylvia Earle and Sam Low for “using the power of media to create positive social change in the world,” according to a press release. This year’s theme is “oceans.” MVYLI is a project of the Stone Soup Leadership Group, where Mr. Cronkite served as honorary chairman for over a decade. Seating is limited, and the suggested donation is $150. Please RSVP at mvyli.org, or by emailing mvyouthleaders@gmail.com. Address and parking instructions will be provided when you RSVP.

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(From left) MVPCS science teachers Jane Paquet and Louis Hall, architects Bruce MacNelly and Reade Kontje-Webster, school director Robert Moore, West Tisbury selectman Skipper Manter, MVPCS student Jack Rizza.

The Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School (MVPCS) began the building process of two new classrooms and a community basketball court with a groundbreaking ceremony on Tuesday, July 1. With a $200,000 grant awarded by the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center this spring, MVPCS will dedicate the addition of new science labs and equipment to implement a modern science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education to accommodate the K-12 school’s ever-growing student body.

Board members, students, parents, teachers, architects and other members of the community gathered outside the school to celebrate the groundbreaking. Students used their existing scientific knowledge to present science-related projects to the crowd in anticipation of the new facilities. Astrid Tilton displayed her cyanotype prints that require darkroom chemistry, Jack Rizza a data analysis piece, and 2014 graduate Greg Allan led his peers through a computerized tour of the classrooms.

According to development director Paul Karasik, the labs will will supply students with up-to-date equipment for biology, chemistry, physics, botany, and environmental studies beginning on the first day of school in September, 2015. The basketball court will be ready for use by the end of this summer.

Said Mr. Karasik, “The Charter School firmly believes that our country needs world-class scientists and that the only way to foster them is through a world-class facility.”

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Thursday, June 26, 2014 - Governor Patrick joins legislators, organized labor, business leaders and worker advocates at the State House to sign S. 2195, “An Act Restoring the Minimum Wage and Providing Unemployment Insurance Reforms," a landmark bill that gradually raises the minimum wage to $11 over three years, lowers unemployment insurance (UI) costs for employers across the state, strengthens safety protections for workers and makes permanent the multi-agency task force charged with combatting the underground economy.

As of Thursday, June 26, the newly designed town flags of West Tisbury, Aquinnah, and Edgartown hang proudly at the State House in Boston. This June marked the 20th anniversary of the State House’s flag program, which allows the banners of nearly all towns across the Commonwealth to fly in the prestigious Great Hall of Flags.

Town officials James Neville, Matt Montanile, and Adam Wilson traveled to the state’s capital to present the flags to Governor Deval Patrick, Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo, and Representative Tim Madden. Mr. Neville’s brothers, John Neville and Matthew Malone, and his father, Jack Neville, and supervisor of the Dukes County Community Corrections Center startup, Pamerson Ifill, were also in attendance.

The seven Island residents also witnessed the minimum wage bill signing ceremony in the Nurses Hall after presenting the flags, which now stand among over 350 other town flags, including those of Oak Bluffs and Tisbury.

Island veterans, law enforcement personnel, and first responders are invited to join in a 26.2-mile rucksack march on Saturday, May 31, in support of Carry the Fallen and Active Heroes.

Offshore Kinetics of MV is sponsoring the march, which goes from 6:30 am to 4 pm. It begins and ends at the VFW in Oak Bluffs.

Owner Michael Blake said there is no cost for participants, who should bring a rucksack or backpack filled with any supplies they might need throughout the day.

Starting at 3:30 pm, the Island community is invited to a post-march cookout, where everyone can meet the participants, enjoy music with a D.J., and view displays by various Island law enforcement and first responder agencies. Donations will be appreciated.

Carry the Fallen aims to raise money for Active Heroes, a nonprofit that provides veterans and military families with financial support and programs geared toward combating post-traumatic stress disorder and veteran suicide, according to a press release from Mr. Blake.

For more information, call 774-521-7545.

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Ann Hartstein, the Massachusetts Secretary of Elder Affairs.

Declaring herself delighted to arrive on the sunny Vineyard after being delayed by fog at Logan Airport earlier, Ann Hartstein, Massachusetts Secretary of Elder Affairs, praised the volunteer work groups for their efforts.

“If this is what you’ve done for the first year I can’t wait to see what is going to come,” said Ms. Hartstein.

According to the Aging Agenda, attention from an early age to health care, diet, exercise, education, developing work skills, planning for future needs, and staying engaged in one’s community all contribute to laying groundwork for a healthy older age.

“People who volunteer stay healthy longer,” Ms. Hartstein noted, “as do people who don’t have a negative view of aging.” She went on to say that even chronic disease is a natural part of aging that does not need to have severe negative impacts on a person’s life. In many cases, what is called for is management and making various adjustments.

Ms. Hartstein emphasized the importance of supporting the ability of people to remain in their homes and their communities as they grow older. She said that making sure people have access to a range of community supports is crucial in this, and transportation plays a big role.

“I’ve been in the field for 40 years and the number one issue that always came up was transportation,” she said.

She pointed out that even when it appears that plenty of public transportation is available, it often does not truly serve the senior population. When an older person stops driving, he or she may well be unable to walk to a bus or shuttle stop, or even climb the steps into the vehicle.

“Elders need supportive transportation,” she said.

Ms. Hartstein reported that Governor Patrick’s administration strongly endorses enabling people to remain at home and out of hospitals and nursing facilities. She said these efforts have led to a drop in nursing home admissions in the state.

She acknowledged that many of the Vineyard work group initiatives, from fall prevention to transportation planning, housing efforts, and others, will support the goal of enabling seniors to remain at home.

A lively, brief question and answer session touched on a variety of topics.

In response to a final question from Paddy Moore, the secretary described her efforts on behalf of those living with Alzheimer’s.

“Alzheimer’s is a family disease, it’s a community disease,” said Ms. Hartstein.

She has partnered with the Alzheimer’s Association, Massachusetts and New Hampshire Chapter, to form an Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders State Plan Task Force.

Asked about potential state funds for the developing Healthy Aging Task Force projects, Ms. Hartstein responded with encouragement but regret, “You’re doing a great job of finding resources and we will help, but we don’t have a magic bullet.”

Related story on the meeting of the Healthy Aging Task Force is here.

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A wellspring of energy and an “Elders Bill of Rights.”

The Vineyard population is aging rapidly, bringing an array of challenges and concerns, but Islanders aren’t taking the unsettling news lying down. When the Rural Scholars, students from the University of Massachusetts Medical School, reported last October that the senior population of Martha’s Vineyard would swell dramatically in years to come, Island activists formed the Healthy Aging Task Force (HATF) to strategize ways to head off the challenge. The task force was developed as a sub-committee of the Dukes County Health Council.

A public meeting in November drew some 65 participants from across the Island, representing several dozen service agencies and providers. That session saw the creation of seven work groups along with a 20-member coordinating committee. Each group was charged with researching and developing responses for a single aspect of senior living.

A morning-long meeting last Thursday, May 22, at the M.V. Hebrew Center in Vineyard Haven brought the groups together along with other interested community members to share their findings and map out action plans for months and years ahead.

Facilitated by HATF chair Paddy Moore, who is also a Dukes County Health Council member, and Peter Temple, executive director of the MV Donors Collaborative, the fast-moving meeting was carefully organized and kept to a precise schedule, employing slide presentations to emphasize facts, figures, and findings.

Massachusetts Secretary of Elder Affairs Ann Hartstein capped off the 3½-hour session, offering acknowledgement and inspiration, answering questions, raising ideas, and conveying the assurance that state government supports such local healthy aging initiatives.

“This is a wonderful celebration,” said Ms. Moore with a bright smile as she welcomed the crowd of nearly 100, pointing to the “wellspring of volunteer energy” and the progress underway.

“I believe that timing is all.” she added, saying this is the perfect moment for Vineyarders to prepare for challenges to come as the percentage of senior citizens grows.

Ms. Moore set the tone by introducing the task force’s “Elders’ Bill of Rights.” The nine-point document calls for seniors to enjoy a life that includes appropriate and affordable housing and transportation, the ability to fully participate in community activity, the choice of living at home or in a facility setting, receive high-quality care and make other decisions in later years, all in addition to being respected and valued by their community.

Mr. Temple recapped the warning from the Rural Scholars that the percentage of Island residents over 65 is growing rapidly. According to these projections, from 16 percent in 2010 the Island population of seniors will rise to 32 percent in 2030. The Island’s increase in older population is much more rapid than that of the U.S. or Massachusetts.

Projections show that the Vineyard’s percentage of elder residents will soon be surpassed only by that of Cape Cod, an area called by one observer, Mr. Temple reported, “Medicare by the Sea.”

Many of these older residents have low incomes and are living in homes that are isolated and not well designed or appointed for potentially changing needs and abilities.

Impacts will be felt everywhere, from the increased pressures on medical and mental health care to town services such as senior centers and EMTs. Adding to the challenges, Mr. Temple said, it is difficult to attract health care professionals and home care workers to the Island due to high living costs and limited housing options.

Before the worrisome predictions could cast a pall over the crowd, Ms. Moore introduced the work group presentations, providing varied responses to the challenges raised. Representatives of each work group outlined updates on findings and progress. Reports were clear, concise, rich with detail and optimism.

Reports made recommendations as common-sensical as exercise tailored to seniors, as useful as a centralized information system, and as ambitious as building a new, revolutionary type of nursing care facility and campaigning to change town zoning.

The work groups discovered, as the Rural Scholars did, that the Vineyard already possesses numerous services and programs that address seniors’ needs. In some cases, recommendations were for coordination, education, and adjustments so existing services would be better used.

The Community Engagement and Prevention group honed in on preventing falls, which are prevalent among older adults and can have far-reaching negative impacts on health and well-being. The group plans to institute of “A Matter of Balance” trainings on the Island. The peer-lead programs aim to lessen fears of falling, teach fall prevention and exercises to improve balance, strength, and confidence.

“Falls are the fourth biggest cause of death among the elderly, and our evidence-based workshop training on Matter of Balance can actually save lives,” Ms. Moore said.

Citing the importance of exercise, especially walking, and working with MV Commission staffer Chris Seidel and with support of the MV Chamber of Commerce, the group will soon make available online maps of all walking trails and pedestrian-friendly ways titled “Getting Around Martha’s Vineyard.”

A proposed “Seniors’ One-Stop Referral Service,” a centralized, web-based system, would provide comprehensive information on resources to guide and support elders, providers, and caregivers. Along with gathering and posting complete resource information online, the plan calls for establishment of an office with a staffer available full time to respond to telephone inquiries.

“Transportation is the thread that ties everything together,” said Leslie Clapp reporting for the Transportation Work Group. “If you’re isolated and lonely you’re not going to be very healthy.”

After surveying every mode of Island public transport and some on the Cape, the group aims to educate seniors on what is available. They also will strive to remedy several gaps that exist, such as travel to certain off-Island specialists and veterans’ services.

The Aging in Community group explored a new and promising model for small scale, personalized nursing facilities designed to look and feel like private homes. Fitting into residential neighborhoods, the Green House model offers private rooms, care based on a patient’s wishes, frequent direct staff contact, and could alternatively accommodate rehabilitation or assisted living programs.

According to the report, the Town of Edgartown has raised the possibility of including a Green House in a pending affordable housing development. With the aim of allowing seniors to remain at home whenever possible, the work group also will promote use of existing volunteer programs.

The Affordable Elder and Workforce Housing group intends to consult with town boards across the Island and push for zoning changes to allow accessory or “in-law” apartments which could accommodate an elderly family member, or a caregiver to help an aging homeowner.

Work is also underway to find ways to educate contractors on several simple design adjustments (e.g. wider doorways and halls, easy no-threshold doors, first-floor living potential) which could make new or retrofitted homes accessible, safe, and livable for older, wheelchair-bound, or handicapped residents.

More than one-third of Vineyarders now provide care on an informal basis to an older family member or friend, a number projected to rise to 55 percent by 2030. The Caregiver Support Work Group is exploring how to provide varied resources for those informal helpers from skills development to medical oversight and respite opportunities.

Funds will be needed to bring many of these ideas to fruition, but progress is underway. Ms. Moore announced a $5,000 M.V. Hospital Community Health Initiative grant towards the One Stop program. Anonymous gifts include: $2,500 for the Green House Feasibility Study; $1,750 for Matter of Balance Training; and $10,000 to fund a two-day consultation with the Altarum Institute’s Center for Elder Care and Advanced Illness. The MV Donors Collaborative has contributed time of its executive director and other proposals are pending.

As the meeting ended Ms. Moore urged participants to share all they had learned with neighbors and friends, offer ideas, and consider volunteering.

“There is a lot of work to do,” she said.

Massachusetts Secretary of Elder Affairs, Ann Hartstein, spoke to the group, and her remarks are here.

For complete slides from the May 22 presentation and additional information visit:

dukescounty.org/Pages/DukesCountyMA_HealthCouncil/DCHATF

or

mvdonors.org/documents/PresentationMay22.pdf

For information or to volunteer, contact Paddy Moore: mooreii@aol.com or 508-693-1627.