During a Select Board meeting Nov 30, concerns regarding the $200,000 allocated funds to the Board of Health for mental health were brought to the table. A heated discussion then ensued between board member Erin Noonan and Chair Moses Grader.
Marblehead’s Select Board met on Nov 30 for the Fiscal 2023 Classification Hearing, the appointment of the new treasurer/collector, approval of minutes, a contract amendment, and a contract vote.
After the meeting’s scheduled topics had wrapped up, Noonan brought up her reservations about a vote the board made back in October. The vote was about the allocation of $200,000 for mental health.
“I assumed that … the funds were going to what I know to be the only mental health treatment provider that has applied to ARPA being the Marblehead Counseling Center,” Noonan said. “I did learn in the community then there was discussion at a subcommittee meeting of the Board of Health around the validity and merits of the Marblehead Counseling Center.”
Noonan said the original motion was “inadvertently” unclear and wanted to bring it up in case others on the board were confused as well.
“I guess that confused me because I don’t see the Board of Health as being in the business of mental health treatment,” Noonan said.
Chair of the Select Board Moses Grader said there wasn’t any confusion for anyone else.
“It is specifically directed at giving the Board of Health a mandate around mental health so it was up to them to decide how they wanted to do that and that’s been the assumption at the ARPA working group,” Grader said.
It is up to the Board of Health what to do with the funds, he said. ARPA, the American Rescue Plan Act, is a working group in Marblehead and he said it has been “extremely supportive” of the counseling center.
“I just want to connect the dots on how that $200,000 number came to be since it’s outside the scope of really what the health department currently does,” Noonan responded. “It feels to me like we’ve self-inflicted some red tape and a little bureaucracy around how they get the funds … we are absolutely capable of allocating the funds directly to the mental health counseling center without going via two different other boards.”
Grader pointed out how the Board of Health set up a mental health task force and they want to “empower” the Board of Health to grow their mental health services.
“My frustration is that … we have this well established mental health provider in Marblehead. And they have petitioned and asked for specific funds with a plan appropriately to the ARPA working group. It feels to me like we’ve self-inflicted some red tape and a little bureaucracy around how they get the funds,” Noonan said.
Noonan expressed that her frustration also comes from the fact that she is not in the ARPA working group.
“I would really appreciate having a seat at the ARPA working group table. I feel that there is only one of five elected members on that ARPA working group, there’s only three actual residents on the ARPA working group,” Noonan said. “I just wonder if anybody has any opposition to me having a seat at the table as a second member of our elected board of five?”
After bringing up having a seat on the working group again later in the meeting Grader told Noonan the chair has to decide that based on many factors.
“Everybody would like to be on that committee too, you’re not the first one and you’re making a bid for it I can understand but it’s very, it’s quite embarrassing you’re doing this right now,” Grader said.
In response to Grader’s comments about her embarrassing herself, Noonan said in an interview that she was doing her job as an elected official.
“I am just trying to do my job which is trying to represent the citizens of this town and ensure that their elected officials are paying attention to where these important federal release dollars are going,” Noonan said.
When asked for a comment about the argument, Grader expressed his apologies.
“I apologize for making that comment,” Grader said in an interview. “I did not mean to be that emphatic in my response to Miss Noonan. I was just surprised because she had already voted on the motion which was approved unanimously by the Select Board to allocate the money to the Board of Health. The Board of Health has traditionally allocated money to mental health service delivery including to the counseling center.”