Sunday, February 26, 2017

Grand Opening of William J. Dean Technical High School's Career Center

Hamptons + Holyoke Read Project

Five communities are coming together during March and April in a new partnership called Hamptons + Holyoke Read. The inspiration for this multi-community initiative is the book Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison by Piper Kerman, popularized by the Netflix series. Spearheaded by the public libraries in Holyoke, Northampton, Florence, Easthampton, Southampton and Westhampton, Hamptons + Holyoke Read is sponsoring dozens of events exploring incarceration through discussion, art, film and lecture. Community partners for this project are wide reaching including Holyoke Community College, Historic Northampton, Wistariahurst, Prison Policy Initiative and UMass Amherst Public History Program.

Originally published in 2010, Orange is the New Black tells the true story of the author, a Smith College graduate, who served a 15-month sentence in a federal women’s prison for drug trafficking. Although the book and to a larger extent the Netflix series give a narrow and often unrealistic view of prison life, the organizers of Hamptons + Holyoke Read are using this book as a jumping off point to encourage community conversations about pervasive issues of mass incarceration affecting our communities and our nation.

There are currently 2.2 million people serving time in the United States, which represents a 500% increase over the last 40 years according to the Sentencing Project, a nonprofit research and advocacy group. In  Massachusetts alone there are nearly 20,000 people currently serving time. The State Senate will be discussing three important criminal justice related bills this year and nationally prison policy is receiving lots of attention. “The topics raised by this year’s community reading event are extremely timely and important. Participants will have the opportunity to increase understanding and foster conversation about the past, present and future of prison and its impact on our society,” said Lisa Downing, Hamptons + Holyoke Read Co-Chair.

Copies of Orange is the New Black are available to borrow from the participating libraries. For a complete list of events and exhibits please visit

Concurrent with Hamptons + Holyoke Read, the national exhibit States of Incarceration: A National Dialogue of Local Histories is coming to Holyoke and Northampton during the month of March. For more information about the exhibit and related programs, please visit

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

HMC Affiliated Physician Practices First in Western Mass to Receive "Pathway to PCMH Prime" Designation

Holyoke Medical Center affiliated patient-centered medical home (PCMH) practices are the first in western Massachusetts to receive the "Pathway to PCMH PRIME" designation by the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA). The Massachusetts Health Policy Commission (HPC), in partnership with NCQA, developed the PCMH PRIME certification program. The program endorses practices that pass NCQA's rigorous guidelines for patient-centered care and succeed in maintaining additional behavioral healthcare services for their population.
The affiliated Western Mass Physician Associates practices include the locations at: 2 Hospital Drive, Holyoke; 10 Hospital Drive, Suite 305, Holyoke; 262 New Ludlow Road, Chicopee; and Western Mass Pediatrics, 10 Hospital Drive, Suite 201, Holyoke.
"Integrating the expertise of two of our affiliate agencies, Western Mass Physician Associates and River Valley Counseling Center, allows us to better identify and treat individuals in need of behavioral health services," said Spiros Hatiras, President and Chief Executive Officer, Holyoke Medical Center and Valley Health Systems, Inc. "The incorporation of behavioral health services is also exemplified in the plans for the new Emergency Department. We are committed as an organization to provide high quality, compassionate healthcare that meets the needs of the Pioneer Valley."
NCQA PCMH Recognition requires practices to meet rigorous, evidence-based standards. Practices that go through the recognition process can earn PCMH PRIME certification if they meet at least 7 out of 13 behavioral health criteria, including:
  • Co-locating or entering into formal agreements with behavioral healthcare providers.
  • Integrating behavioral healthcare providers into the practice site.
  • Performing comprehensive health assessments that include screening for behavioral health conditions, including depression, post-partum depression, anxiety, developmental delays and/or substance use disorder (SUD).
  • Having a system for identifying high-risk patients for targeted care management.
  • Tracking and following up on referrals to specialists, including behavioral healthcare providers.
  • Providing medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for patients with addiction.
PCMH PRIME certification is voluntary for practices in Massachusetts.

Friday, February 17, 2017

City of Holyoke Receives A+ Bond Rating

Sandra Smith, City Treasurer, received competitive bids from bond underwriters on Thursday, February 16, 2017 for a $5,035,000, 10-year refunding bond issue. SunTrust Robinson Humphrey was the winning bidder on the Bonds with an average interest rate of 2.068%. The City received a total of 5 bids on Bonds. Bonds will be used to refund a portion of the City’s July 15, 2007 bond issue. 

The refunding bonds will generate total savings of $531,602 over the remaining life of the bonds.

Prior to the sale Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services, a municipal credit rating agency, affirmed its ‘A+’ underlying rating on the City’s long-term debt and assigned a ‘AA’ rating to the Bonds, which are enhanced by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ State Aid Intercept Qualified Bond Program. The agency cited the City’s strong budgetary flexibility, strong budgetary performance, strong liquidity and strong institutional framework as positive credit factors. 

“This is a significant financial achievement for the City of Holyoke” commented Mayor Alex Morse, “Not only because of real savings taxpayers of Holyoke but also because of the recognition by the financial community of our strong financial management and budgetary performance”.

“I want to thank Treasurer Sandra Smith, Acting Auditor Bellmay Schmidt and all the members of the City’s financial team for their leadership and assistance in ensuring our financial health.” Mayor Morse added. 

The bids for the Bonds were accepted at the offices of the City’s Financial Advisor, FirstSouthwest, a Division of Hilltop Securities, at 54 Canal Street in Boston, Massachusetts.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Wistariahurst Presents: Climbing PoeTree at the War Memorial

Wistariahurst, in collaboration with the Feinberg Family Distinguished Lecture Series, presents Climbing PoeTree at the War Memorial, located at 310 Appleton St, Holyoke. Featuring an opening performance with Extraordinaiire. Concert is FREE and open to all. This concert will be held on February 26th.

Over the last 13 years, Climbing PoeTree has infused our movements for justice with healing and imagination, inspiring thousands through their award-winning multimedia theater, dual-voice spoken word, visual art, sustainable touring, and community organizing.

Alixa and Naima have taken their work from South Africa to Cuba, the UK to Mexico, and throughout the U.S. including 11,000 miles toured on a bus converted to run on recycled vegetable oil. Climbing PoeTree has been experienced at diverse venues from the Brooklyn Academy of Music to the United Nations, Harvard University to Rikers Island Prison.

They have been featured alongside powerhouses such as Alice Walker, Danny Glover, Cornel West, Alicia Keys, Erykah Badu, Little Dragon, Naomi Klein, and Angela Davis, who remarked, “Each time I have the pleasure of attending a performance by Climbing PoeTree, I feel enriched, renewed, and inspired. Alixa and Naima insist that poetry can change the world — and it is true that the urgency, power and beauty of their words impel us to keep striving for the radical futures toward which they gesture.”

National Politics Comes to Holyoke

On February 26, 2017, at 11:30 am, Congregation Sons of Zion (378 Maple Street, Holyoke, MA) will be hosting State and Local politicians for a moderated discussion “The United States Under a Trump Presidency: What it Will Mean to Greater Holyoke.”

MA State Senator Don Humason, Jr., MA State Senator Eric Lesser, MA State Representative Aaron Vega, and Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse will participate in the panel discussion. Questions will be provided by audience members.

A light lunch, provided by Chef Ezra Bleau of South Hadley High School, will be served prior to the discussion. The event is open to the public with a $10 per person suggested donation to the Synagogue. There is ample parking behind the building on Cabot Street; please use the Cabot Street entrance. Handicapped accessible.

For more information, please visit or call the synagogue at 413-534-3369.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Friends of Holyoke Public Schools to Host 5th Annual Improv Fundraiser

For the fifth year in a row, the top comics from Boston’s renowned Improv Asylum will make their appearance at the Log Cabin in Holyoke on Friday evening Feb. 24 for the benefit of Holyoke Public School students.

The evening of food and fun will be presented by the Friends of the Holyoke Public Schools, a volunteer non-profit organization sponsoring enrichment programs for students throughout the year. The Improv evening will open at 6:30 p.m. with gourmet food stations and a cash bar, followed by the ​ hour long​show at 8. 

Donated prizes will be raffled ​off to Holyoke Public School teachers in attendance.

Tickets are $55 and may be purchased online at or by mailing a check to Friends or the Holyoke Public Schools at P.O. Box 10261, Holyoke, MA 01041.

“We’re excited to host the Boston Improv Asylum in Holyoke for another great evening that raises money for our city’s students and teachers,” said Tessa Murphy-Romboletti, President of the Friends of Holyoke Public Schools. “We’re trying some new things this year to keep this event exciting, and we’re thankful for the support of our generous sponsors. We’ll hope you’ll join us for a great evening that never disappoints.”

Funds raised from this event have allowed the Friends of Holyoke Public Schools to sponsor the acclaimed Summer Strings Program, issue grants to teachers across the district, and provide opportunities for students to attend special performances and cultural events.

Sponsorship support from the business community has also been greatly responsible for the success of FHPS’ success. This year’s event is once again generously supported by the Log Cabin-Delaney House in addition to major sponsors Sullivan, Hayes & Quinn attorneys-at-law and Holyoke Pediatrics.

Improv Asylum actors and comics focus on local news and issues, and include political leaders and educators face-to-face on stage. Their ad lib skits provide a steady stream of surprise and laughter throughout the evening