GREAT BARRINGTON — Community Health Programs (CHP) has received $350,000 from MassHealth via the Berkshire Fallon Health Collaborative (BFHC) to expand a successful nutrition program focused on patients with diabetes and those at risk of the disease.
This award more than doubles the 2020 program funding and includes the purchase of CSA farm shares for eligible participants.
The funds also provide nutrition support and education for pregnant women and postpartum individuals with infants up to age 1 who have limited access to nutrition education and healthy foods.
Administered by CHP’s Family Services team, the flexible service program is open to patients covered by BFHC, the MassHealth affordable-care organization in the Berkshires.
Diabetes is a community priority in Berkshire County. The CHP healthcare network counts more than 1,800 of its patients, ages 18 to 75, living with the condition. Overall, the Berkshire region’s death rate from diabetes, 18.7 per 100,000, far exceeds the statewide average of 14.9.
“Diabetes is a serious public-health issue around the U.S. and here in the Berkshires as well, and it’s a dangerous underlying condition for people with COVID-19,” said Ashli Minor, lead nutritionist and program coordinator for CHP. “But regardless of COVID-19, diabetes has far-reaching impacts on health and community well-being.”
The diabetes-management program supports BFHC members by providing healthy, fresh foods not typically available through SNAP, WIC, or other benefit programs. The program also helps clients build skills to incorporate these new foods into their home-cooking routines in realistic and sustainable ways.
The 2021 program builds on the success of its 2020 pilot program, in which BFHC saw an 80% increase in the number of members who reported reduced food-insecurity challenges. This program includes nutrition counseling, Community Supported Agriculture farm shares through Berkshire Grown, vouchers for formula and food packages to support infant nutrition, access to the CHP food pantry, and transportation and screening supports.
“We are so pleased that MassHealth is putting funding behind diabetes management and prevention by addressing lifestyle and nutrition education,” said Lia Spiliotes, CEO of Community Health Programs. “This program improves individual and community health, reduces healthcare costs, and improves the lives of people at risk of a preventable disease.”
Dr. Linda Weinreb, medical director of Medicaid Programs and ACOs for Fallon Health, added that “it is challenging for members to meet their wellness goals when they are experiencing food insecurity and other social issues that impact their health. We are encouraged by the positive impacts this program is already having on members, and are pleased to have the chance to continue working to address social issues that impact health.”