Islands Get Major Public Health Grant

Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard will share a large grant worth nearly $1 million over three years from the state Department of Public Health to help address tick-borne diseases, food safety, and behavioral health issues on the islands.

The “Public Health Excellence” grant will allow the islands to create and share three new positions, including a biologist to look at tick populations and other vector-borne illnesses, a food auditor to assist with FDA inspection standardization, and a behavioral health specialist to conduct data quantification on mental health, substance abuse and homelessness. The grant is set to be approved by the Nantucket Select Board next week.

The positions will be “nested” in Island Health Care, the Vineyard’s federal qualified health center. Nantucket will get approximately 20 percent of the staff members’ time, as it is split equally among the various Vineyard towns and Nantucket.

Nantucket Health Department director Roberto Santamaria said he was thrilled to be getting assistance in the areas of tick-borne illnesses and behavioral health.

“We’ve been trying to get our heads wrapped around mental health and substance abuse issues for years,” Santamaria said. “And now with the lone start tick being found on-island, I want to know more about those populations. It’s long overdue.”

The grant will be administered through the Massachusetts Association of Health Boards.

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