Capital Comments: Grant will enhance primary care at Newport Health Center

By New Hampshire State Senator Bob Odell

The legislative study committee on the closing of district courts, including the Claremont court, has met.  And the committee’s plan is to visit the three court facilities which are slated to be closed and hold a public hearing in Claremont, Milford and Colebrook.

Members of the committee include Representatives Peter Leishman (Peterborough) who will chair the committee, Gene Charron (Chester) who is the former superintendent of the Rockingham County Department of Corrections, Anne Grassie (Dover) who will act as the committee clerk, Senate Majority Leader Maggie Hassan (Exeter) and me.  I will serve as committee vice chair.

The current state budget has money to operate the three courts only for the first year of the biennium.  So, Representative Leishman has drafted legislation to fund the three courts for the fiscal year beginning on July 1, 2010.  Between the work and recommendations of the study committee and Representative Leishman’s appropriation bill, the legislature will have plenty to consider concerning new court consolidations.

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“Business After Hours” are regular events sponsored by the chambers of commerce throughout the area.  Each event is hosted by a different local business or not for profit organization.  The Newport Chamber recently sponsored events that allowed participants a chance to catch up on news about two important organizations.

I am at the Newport Health Center from time to time so I know it is a busy place but I learned much more at a business after hours event there.  The number of patients at the Newport Health Center has been going up.  And New London Hospital has received a NH Department of Health and Human Services grant to enhance primary care health services for Sullivan County residents through the Newport Health Center.

The center is on top of one of the hot issues in Washington … electronic medical records … and will implement an electronic records system next year.  Not surprisingly, with a growing number of patients and additional services and providers at the center, plans to expand the clinical space sometime over the next two years is receiving serious discussion.

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About 20 years ago, Larry Zullo came through the door at Holiday Travel, which I had just bought, telling me I needed to contribute so the town could have a new senior center.  That was my introduction to the Newport Senior Center.  Although I have been there many times, at another business after hours, a tour through the facility with the President of the Board of Trustees, Joan Willey, reminded me of how many services and activities are provided.  There is the trip program, computer training, AARP tax preparation services, cribbage games, health and physical fitness activities, library and the list goes on and on.

Most interesting to me is that the senior center is also the home of Sullivan County Nutrition Services (SCNS).  Many readers are familiar with one service most of us know as “meals on wheels.”  SCNS prepares and delivers 400 meals every weekday to people in their own homes.  They also provide lunches every weekday at the Newport center, in Claremont and in Charlestown.  Primarily focused on nutritional needs of local seniors, anyone can drop in for a meal.  A small contribution is requested of seniors and a slightly larger amount from those younger.  But no one is turned away for lack of money for a contribution.

The Newport Senior Center is a wonderful and welcoming place for area seniors … just what Larry Zullo was saying it would be 20 years ago.

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It was a beautiful sunny September Saturday.  And it was a great day in Lempster to hike a couple of miles from the old Wright summer house site to Long Pond and then cross over to Sand Pond and return.  There were nearly 40 hikers with several from Lempster with others coming from distant parts of the state.

The hike was part of the public education and fund-raising for the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests effort to protect the source of the Ashuelot River.  The Society is attempting to purchase 1,750 acres including three miles of undeveloped shoreline on Long Pond and Sand Pond as well as the summit of Silver Mountain.

A top goal of the project is to protect the water quality of the river which empties into the Connecticut River.  There are 25 towns in the Ashuelot River watershed and it provides drinking water to the City of Keene.  In addition to protecting the water quality, the land tracts will provide an outstanding recreation area open to the public for hiking, blueberry- picking, hunting and other outdoor activities.  We saw many signs of wildlife on the hike including bear and moose.  Protecting these land tracts combined with adjacent Pillsbury and nearby Mount Sunapee State Parks along with the 11,000 acre Andorra Forest in Stoddard will help sustain healthy and varied species of wildlife.  And economically, the lands will be managed for sustainable logging.

More than one person was heard to say “we need to come back here” indicative of the rare beauty and unique natural characteristics of the landscape.  On the trail between the shorelines of Long Pond and Sand Pond, there is a huge rock outcropping and cave that got plenty of attention.  Most hikers tried out a walk in cave.  What a pleasant way to spend three hours right in your hometown.

NH State Senator Bob Odell (District 8) is chairman of Ways and Means, a member of the Energy, Environment and Economic Development Committee, and the Finance Committee. Senate District 8 comprises: Acworth, Alstead, Charlestown, Claremont, Gilsum, Goshen, Langdon, Lempster, Marlow, New London, Newbury, Newport, Roxbury, Stoddard, Sullivan, Sunapee, Sutton, Unity, Walpole, Washington and Westmoreland.

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