A letter from State Rep. Kelly Pajala

Dear Editor,

The legislature meets from Tuesday to Friday, so Mondays are often the one day of the week when legislators have the opportunity to spend time back in their home districts. Last Monday, in the midst of my brain being consumed by the battle over gun control and school safety, I literally went out to lunch.

Except this was not your typical lunch date, nor was it a break from having my mind filled by the needs of our community. I was invited by Andrea Seaton, executive director of the Grace Cottage Foundation to visit Grace Cottage Family Health and Hospital in Townshend for lunch. While I have known many people who have received excellent care there, this was my first visit to Grace Cottage.

After having a tasty meal in the cafeteria, Andrea took me on a tour of this amazing Critical Access Hospital and Family Health facility, which happens to be one of the largest employers in our region. As Andrea explained to me, the Critical Access designation is not about providing care to patients in critical need (although they do that), but rather that access to this hospital is critical to the community it serves. After seeing all the types of care that are provided on this one campus and meeting many of their excellent staff members, I could see why Grace Cottage is such a gem in our community.

Remember how I said this lunch was not a break. I was there to learn about this resource in our community and the challenges it faces while serving our rural population. During the course of my visit, many concerns came up in conversation with the people I met. The highlighted topics were funding challenges, substance use treatment and recovery, tax reform, gun safety, and finally the loss of cell coverage in Townshend, Newfane, and Jamaica and the subsequent disruption to 911 services in the area.

The buzz of activity at Grace Cottage encompasses all of the challenges that are pulling at our social fabric and yet there is a vibrant, welcoming, steadfast optimism permeating through the whole facility.

My visit put into focus the enormous effort that is required to support our rural health care facilities, which are anchor institutions in our communities. It gave me a renewed sense of purpose as I prepared to head back to Montpelier. There are so many pieces to the puzzle to work on and I am already involved with some of them through the work being done by the House Human Services Committee and the Rural Economic Development Working Group.

I encourage anyone in our community to visit Grace Cottage, not only for emergency or family health care needs but for wellness activities. Take a yoga class, or a dance class. Sign up to train for a 5k run. Please utilize their facilities to enhance your family’s health and well being and support this valuable resource in any way you can.

If you have questions or concerns, please feel free to reach out anytime. Call 802-770-4987 or email kellympajala@gmail.com.

Sincerely,

Kelly Pajala

State Rep. for Jamaica, Londonderry, Stratton, Weston, and Winhall.

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