Sunday, November 1, 2015

Franklin candidate for Board of Health - Gail Chirdon

Gail Chirdon and I met recently at Panera to talk about her campaign for Board of Health. This is the summary of our discussion.

FM - What is your Franklin story?

Chirdon – I moved from Norwood in 1996 to be a first time home buyer. I was looking in Norwood as I had been involved in the community working on different committees there but I could not afford it. I have always been one to be involved in the community. And what an unexpected gift it was to move to the Franklin community where I continue to be actively involved. I was working full time as a psychiatric clinic nurse specialist (which I did for 48 years). That’s been my only job. 
I got my degrees the long hard way. I went to a three year nursing degree program at Harrisburg Polyclinic Hospital School of Nursing. It wasn’t college affiliated back then, nursing schools were the degree programs. I took the boards and got my RN (registered nurse). I got my RN the first time around. Had some great jobs in Harrisburg, but once I moved up here in order to get the good jobs or the jobs I wanted to do I needed to go back to school. 
I went to Boston College and got my BSN, Bachelor of Science in Nursing. From that I worked as Director of the Geriatric Community Mental Health Program which was affiliated both with the Dept. of Mental Health and the Newton-Wellesley Hospital. After working in that capacity for three years I decided to return to school at Boston University for a Master’s Degree in Nursing Science. I also have taken a three year course in Homeopathic Medicine. 
I retired in January of this year. After three months of retirement i felt a sense of boredom and more importantly a loss of purposeful activity. I reflected as to what I could do with my skills and interests in giving service to my community. I applied for a volunteer position in the Patient/Family Advisory Council at Milford Hospital and got chosen. I started that in May and since being there, I was invited to join the hospital’s Substance Abuse Committee and also the Mental Health sub-committee of the Advisory Council. 
I am also a Board member of the S.A.F.E. Coalition (for Opioid Abuse) recently formed here by Rep. Jeff Roy and others. In addition, I do volunteer work for Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) of Norfolk County driving veterans and their families to medical appointments. I think that is important. It has been great and I have made some friends out of that too. 
Earlier this year, I made a presentation to the current Board of Health and Town Council providing educational information on the proposed Spectra pipeline. As a result of these presentations, I felt strongly the need to run for a seat on the Board of Health. I strongly feel that the Board of Health needs a member with a strong medical and psycho-social background and a commitment to prevention and educational programs and a strong background in involving and advocating for Franklin’s citizens. 
I also would commit to finding monies via grants to fund a certified Community Health Worker and a Public Health Registered Nurse. This is very important if we as a town are to progressively move forward.

FM - What do you see as a challenge for the position of Board of Health?

Chirdon – The staff is seriously undermanned to do the work that is needed for health care for a community of our size. It is a huge challenge to focus on public health prevention programs. Having a term of four years will make for a great start with this effort. 
I keep hearing that Franklin is scratching the bottom of the bucket for the budget. So where do you get the money for preventive health programs? You go online and find that there are grant programs available. I have had experience grant writing. You find a grant that can give you enough funding for a good two to three year start on a program and then build the case for a sustaining program to officially put it into the budget. 
There is a group of professionals called Community Health Workers (CHW). They are out of the State’s Department of Health; grants are available to utilize them as resources. 
I like that there are four years to do something. You can start something and get something solidified in four years. 
On fluoridation for example, the Department of Health and Human Services has recently changed the standard to a lower level of fluoridation in our drinking water. According to Franklin’s 2014 water report, we are reported to be over this amount. There are health consequences to this. Let’s join forces with our DPW to fix this problem. 
There is only so much you can do with legislation. For alcohol, or smoking, or other substance abuses/addictions, the individual (and his/her family) needs to make the effort utilizing all the necessary support services to reach the end goal of sobriety.

FM - What do you bring to the position that would set you apart from the other candidates?

Chirdon – My mantra for running is education, education, education and along with that, communication, communication, communication. And when I say communication, it is not only to educate the community but also to be educated by the community by way of open and honest dialogues with the departments in the town and especially the Town Council and Administration. 
I am tired of hearing ‘there is nothing we can do about it’. I have taken tough issues and accomplished something from nothing before. It can be done. For example, when I was Director of the Geriatric Community Mental Health Program, I approached my Chief of Psychiatry to set up a day treatment program to establish programs for the chronic mentally ill to keep them in the community. He said “I tried to get a program going for our adolescent population and it fell through. I couldn’t get anyone’s interest.” I said, “Let me try.” 
I made connections with Yale-New Haven Hospital clergy and Dept. of Psychiatry and the houses of worship in the Newton/Wellesley/Weston/ Needham communities and I sponsored a one-day planning workshop with all these principals. Long story short, I was successful in gaining the support of the local resources, ending up with a successful day treatment program in the community. I utilized and trained volunteers from the above mentioned communities. And I am most proud that I did this on a ZERO budget. 
I hope the above example begins to show that I ‘walk the talk’. So, please go to the polls on November 3rd to vote. If you like what I stand for, I ask for your vote so that together, you and I can progressively grow the direction of the Board of Health. In running for this position I have at learned so more about my community, how it works, and have made some good friends and contacts along the way !

If you have any follow up questions for Gail, you can contact her via email at

Noteworthy: This information is intended to help the Franklin voters when we all head to the ballot box on November 3rd. The interview candidates have had an opportunity to review the text before publishing to ensure the accuracy of our discussion.

The collection of all the information to prepare for the Nov 3rd election can be found here

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