HUDSON – Hudson has a new Director of Public and Community Health.
After two years of COVID-19 operations, and at a turning point in the pandemic response, Lauren Antonelli is now looking to the future with a mix of challenges and evolution.
“I’m really excited to take on this new role,” she said in an interview with Community Advocate last month.
They named him Antonelli in the last month
Antonelli was formally appointed by the May 16 Select Committee.
His selection restricted a recruitment process earlier this year after former director Kelli Calo resigned.
Calo has been in his role since 2017.
“We have a great team here,” Calo said in March.
“I’m going to lose a lot,” he added.
Appointed as Calo’s successor, Antonelli leads a department that was incorporated just two years ago in August 2020.
Prior to joining the Department of Health, Antonelli began working for substance abuse prevention at the Allston-Brighton Substance Abuse Task Force in Boston.
He then worked to help the homeless. Also at the Mary’s Center for Women and Children in Boston.
“I endured a lot of things,” Antonelli said of his early career, highlighting his experience with multiple Boston clients.
Antonelli, who also earned a master’s degree in psychology in 2013, eventually chose to leave Boston at Hudson as the Regional Coordinator of the Youth Substance Abuse Prevention Program, where he has lived for about five years.
“He seemed to be doing very well,” he said of the Department of Health’s role.
The Department of Health expanded during the pandemic
Initially focused on Hudson’s substance abuse prevention, Antonelli’s tenure in the village to date has been dominated by a larger COVID-19 pandemic.
By imposing taxes on public health professionals, the pandemic has also released new funding to expand Hudson Health Department staff as part of a network of shared services with various communities in the region.
As pandemic situations continue to evolve, this increase in staff is a focus for Antonelli.
There were four full-time Hudson Health Department employees and one part-time employee before the pandemic.
That number now has 15 full-time employees, with several part-time employees.
Although funding for the new posts has been secured until June 2024, beyond that point the future is less secure.
“It’s hard to be in the early stages of this, get it up and running, and then have to think about sustainability as well. [of it]”said Antonelli.
He has focused on funding sources, expressing optimism about the duration of these new posts and the model of shared services between municipalities for the future.
“I hope that after making these big investments to get things started they won’t give up everything,” he said.
Including other communities such as Hudson and Framingham, this model has enabled collaborative tracing of coronavirus contacts, among others, Antonelli explained.
Space boundaries persist
When the issue of funding raises more long-term questions, the current space constraints present a current hurdle for the rising Department of Health for leader Antonelli.
With no space in the main office, some Health Department staff are working in the Hudson City Hall auditorium when their hybrid schedules require work in person at City Hall.
As the summer months arrive, the lack of air conditioning in this space is even more challenging.
“Basically, we’re doing the best we can,” Antonelli said.
The Department of Health has allocated ARPA money to alleviate space constraints. But with some concerns about the sustainability of renting new offices, for example, the next steps were determined from last month.
The health director has a “next chapter” for the department
Outside of COVID-19 and related staff changes, Antonelli reiterated his excitement about what is a new phase in the pandemic response.
As the feeling of normalcy returned after the removal of COVID-19 restrictions, Antonelli highlighted several efforts, including continuing substance abuse prevention work, mental health services and working with Hudson’s ever-expanding business community.
“[The pandemic has] “It’s really been the focus,” Antonelli said.
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