MANCHESTER, NH – On Tuesday, city leaders introduced the first nine members of the Public Health and Safety Team, or PHAST.
Funded by the American Rescue Plan Act, PHAST seeks to address neighborhood-level health concerns and provide trusted points of contact for vulnerable city residents struggling with accessing resources that may otherwise go underutilized.
The PHAST program also seeks to reduce the burden on police officers by responding to incidents where police officers have been called in the past, but non-police officers may be more beneficial. While the PHAST members are not first responders and are not expected to replace police officers, in addition to reducing the police burden, they are also expected to coordinate with police as “violence interrupters” by using an evidence-based approach to reduce violent crime, treating violence no differently than any other health epidemic. The outreach done by PHAST is a key component of Manchester Police Department Chief Allen Aldenberg’s violent crime reduction strategy.
Planning for the program has been in the works for years, growing from the community-based school health initiatives. Some members of PHAST hired late last year following Aldermanic approval of Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig’s American Rescue Plan funding recommendations last summer.
In recent weeks, the caseload of PHAST has climbed to 62 residents, with tasks formerly undertaken by police such as Meals on Wheels delivery now done by PHAST, freeing officers to deal with other points of concern.
Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig thanked New Hampshire’s Congressional Delegation for their assistance in obtaining the funding and praised the PHAST members and their close connections to the community.
“These individuals live in our neighborhoods, they speak multiple languages and they are dedicated to creating a Manchester where every single resident feels connected and supported,” said Craig.
While the community health workers on PHAST are assigned to particular wards, Manchester Health Department Director Anna Thomas said that anyone in the city can reach out to any of them and they collaborate when needed to address various community health problems being faced by city residents.
Once funding from the American Rescue Plan Act runs out, Thomas says that the onus is on her department to either obtain grant funding or convince the Board of Mayor and Aldermen about the efficacy of this program, currently targeted at a five-year pilot phase.
However, she feels confident the plan will not only survive, but also grow, with hopes to hire a new PHAST member dedicated to senior citizen issues in the near future.
“I think we’re going to be doing a lot more planning around healthy aging in Manchester for years to come, so we’re getting prepared,” said Thomas. “We want these boots on the grounds now, ready to reach individuals and give them assistance as needed.”
The list of Public Health & Safety Team members is below.