By Joe Cohen Standard-Times Staff Writer
NEW BEDFORD — Gov. Deval Patrick, in the midst of a summer blitz of town hall and Cabinet meetings across the state, visited the city Tuesday, and senior administration officials announced a $500,000 grant for Bristol Community College for job training in health and human services.
Also announced at the meeting was the planned opening of a regional health services office in New Bedford.
In a 90-minute session before about 150 people at Normandin Middle School, Gov. Patrick, Lt. Gov. Tim Murray and eight senior administration officials covered a range of issues, including the economy, unemployment, health care, education, energy and the environment and transportation.
Patrick administration officials answered questions from the audience, which was composed largely of city officials and business leaders and a smattering of students and adults. Questions covered issues such as greenhouse gas emissions, wind turbines and health insurance for the self-employed.
New Bedford’s was the third of four Cabinet meetings conducted on the road this summer. Gov. Patrick held a town hall meeting Tuesday night in Rehoboth, the seventh of 11 planned during this summer across the state.
Speaking with reporters after the Cabinet meeting, Gov. Patrick said taking top officials from his administration on the road “makes policy work less abstract.” Asked about the economy and joblessness in SouthCoast, which has some of the highest unemployment rates in the state, the governor said his administration has focused on the economy “from the first day” in office. He noted that the state overall has been adding jobs, despite a national trend in which jobless rates have been growing.
“There’s a lot more work we have to do,” Gov. Patrick said.
The $500,000 grant for BCC is to help people, especially the unemployed or those seeking a career change, pursue a career in health and human services. It was announced by Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development Suzanne M. Bump, who said the grant will help in the training hundreds of workers.
Marianne Taylor of BCC said health and human services skills are critically needed in SouthCoast. She said a report on the period 2004-14 indicated that 63,000 jobs in those fields will be created during that time. Employers are unable to expand due to a lack of qualified workers, Ms. Taylor said.
“Health and human services is the largest employment category in Massachusetts, employing nearly 15 percent of the total Massachusetts work force,” she said.
BCC’s program, Ms. Taylor said, will include an effort to bring national skill standards and ethical practices into the curriculum.
Dr. JudyAnn Bigby, secretary of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, announced the opening of a regional health services office in New Bedford.
Geoff Wilkinson, senior policy adviser in the Department of Public Health, said after the meeting that the office will be at 1740 Purchase St. and will open on Sept. 4. He said Gov. Patrick and Dr. Bigby “believe in a strong local presence.”
Mr. Wilkinson said the 18-member staff will work with local health officials on matters including maternal and child health, communicable diseases, drug abuse, and emergency preparedness and technical assistance. A similar office existed several years ago in Taunton and was closed for budget reasons.
Contact Joe Cohen at firstname.lastname@example.org
July 30, 2008