News in brief

News
Strafford County unveils new health plan

Strafford County residents could be healthier, and a newly released plan aims to make that happen in the next three years.

The Strafford County Public Health Network released a three-year community health improvement plan (CHIP) earlier this month. The plan, developed by more than 165 local stakeholders, including medical and social service providers, educators, government officials, and law enforcement, identified five top priorities: substance misuse, mental health, obesity and nutrition, emergency preparedness, and heart disease and stroke.

According to the plan, which is available online at scphn.org, Strafford County is ranked eighth of the state’s 10 counties in terms of healthiness. The county includes the cities of Dover, Somersworth, and Rochester, as well as the towns of Lee, Durham, Rollinsford, Farmington, Milton, New Durham, and others. About 125,604 residents live in the county.

According to the plan, 31 percent of adults in the county are obese, and the county ranks third in the state for the number of adults diagnosed with and hospitalized for coronary heart disease. The county also ranks poorly in stroke mortality rates, with 204 deaths between 2009 and 2013, and overall quality of life and health measures.

The plan’s recommendations include increasing access to substance misuse treatment and recovery facilities and developing crisis response teams to attend alcohol and drug overdose events. Other measures include establishing a mental health workgroup made up of representatives from local hospitals and health organizations, increasing access to free and low-cost physical activity programs, collaborating with municipalities on emergency preparedness outreach efforts, and increasing awareness of heart disease and stroke prevention. — Larry Clow

City seeks ideas for grant program

Got an idea for a project that might benefit low- or moderate-income families living in Portsmouth? The city wants to hear from you. Portsmouth’s Citizens Advisory Committee will meet on Thursday, Feb. 18 at City Hall on Junkins Avenue to discuss ideas for community development block grant (CDBG) projects. The meeting is part of the 2016-2017 CDBG budget and planning process.

The city receives about $500,000 each year in CDBG funds, according to Elise Annunziata, the city’s community development coordinator. The funds come from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and are used to fund projects and services that benefit individuals and families who earn less than 80 percent of the median income for a four-person household, currently about $86,100, Annunziata said.

During the meeting, city staff will provide an overview of which projects meet CDBG requirements and will ask for input about new projects. Funds from the grants are used to improve very low-income to moderate-income neighborhoods, increase accessibility for people with disabilities, and other projects.

“Suitable, safe, affordable housing is one of HUD’s big goals,” Annunziata said.

According to Annunziata, CDBG funds have been used in the past for housing rehabilitation programs, in which eligible residents can receive funds to bring their homes up to code, and to install lifts or ramps in the homes of elderly residents or in city facilities or local nonprofits, among other projects. A small portion of CDBG funds also go to human services agencies, she said.

The Citizens Advisory Committee will hold another public hearing this spring and submit its recommendations in May. Annunziata said the city is also working on submitting a proposed budget and action plan to HUD.

Residents who can’t attend the meeting can share their comments at 603-610-7281 or [email protected] — LC

Portsmouth police release trading cards

For the first time in 20 years, you can bring the members of the Portsmouth Police Department home with you in trading card form. The department revived its police trading card program this month with 28 cards featuring city police officers. The cards include the officers’ name and photograph on the front and short biography on the back.

Children ages 6-12 who live in Portsmouth or attend city schools can collect the cards and receive tickets for a bi-weekly raffle. The first bi-weekly card check will take place at the Connie Bean Recreation Center, 155 Parrott Ave., on Wednesday, Feb. 24 from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Adults can collect the cards too, though the raffle is for kids only.

Cards are available from city police officers, though the department reminds collectors to avoid asking officers for cards while engaged in their duties.

For a checklist of cards and card collection program rules, go here, or contact detective Rochelle Jones at 603-610-7503 or [email protected] — LC

Warm up (or cool down) the Rep

The Seacoast Repertory Theatre in Portsmouth is asking the community for help warming up and cooling down. This month, the theater launched a $150,000 crowd-funding campaign for a new heating and air conditioning system.

Kathleen Cavalaro, the theater’s executive director, said the Rep does not have a dedicated heating and air conditioning system. The theater spends about $49,000 a year on a variety of “alternative inadequate methods of heating and cooling,” she said.

The fundraiser, posted on generosity.com, had raised about $5,000 as of Feb. 16. The project is part of the Rep’s new five-year facilities plan, which calls for a renovation of the lobby, bar, bathrooms, and box office, as well as a complete remodel of the theater and administrative offices.

To see a video about the campaign, go here— LC