HRiA has lived in several places during its 65 years. Before we opened our headquarters in Boston’s Chinatown, HRiA was based out of 95 Berkeley Street in Boston’s Back Bay/South End. Long-term partners and clients may recall our office on Washington Street in Codman Square, Dorchester. Fewer still are familiar with a suburban property located northwest of Boston. Burlington, Massachusetts is the home of HRiA’s Clearinghouse.
Partners in health promotion
The Clearinghouse (aka the Massachusetts Health Promotion Clearinghouse) is a statewide service that provides free health promotion materials for Massachusetts residents and health and social service providers. Established as a joint project between HRiA and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) in 1997, the Clearinghouse has expanded over the course of 25+ years to include over 1,200 products in 29 languages, distributing millions of units of public safety and health materials annually on behalf of several Massachusetts state agencies, including MDPH, the Department of Fire Services (MDFS), the Department of Mental Health (MDMH), and the Department of Children and Families (MDCF) to a wide range of health and social service providers, including community health centers, hospitals, community-based organizations, and child care centers. It now also serves the state of Illinois and manages far more than printed and digital materials. In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, our Clearinghouse staff became unlikely members of our frontline workforce, when demand for their services and products soared (such as the need for broad distribution of hygiene education and substance use services promotional materials). By their records, as of March 2023, the Clearinghouse has distributed over 4 million units of COVID-related materials (including flyers, wallet cards, vaccine record cards, and rapid test stickers) since March 2020.
The power of community connection
“It’s not just a warehouse. We connect to communities,” says Tamaki West, director of the Clearinghouse. In addition to traditional health promotion materials, like posters about handwashing and brochures about tobacco cessation, the Clearinghouse distributes a variety of products, including:
- Basic hygiene items for children moving through the MDCF system,
- COVID-19 vaccination cards,
- HRiA Helpline-branded items, such as mini first aid kits and sunscreen, that provide value to individuals and families in need while raising awareness about available resources.
“This service typically lives in a corporate space, but here, it lives within a public health institute,” Tamaki explains. “We think about who we are serving and the challenges they have. That’s the added value.”
Partner in emergency response
Vianka Perez Belyea, HRiA’s new vice president of public health services, agrees with Tamaki. “We play a significant role in identifying how to serve the community,” she states. A prime example that demonstrates the value in this role happened in the Fall of 2022, when the Clearinghouse received a request for support from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health upon the arrival of Venezuelan migrants in Martha’s Vineyard. “It was important, it was urgent,” recalls Julius Juuko, senior fulfillment manager at the Clearinghouse. “We were able to jump in and help.” The Clearinghouse team coordinated the distribution of the Show Me Booklet to an emergency shelter in Bourne, MA. This publication is a communication tool for emergency shelters to reduce communication barriers. It also assists individuals with access and functional needs during an emergency.
As the Clearinghouse continues to grow, the team is pushing the boundaries on expectations. Recently, they have amplified their efforts to support harm reduction of substance use through the distribution of fentanyl test strips to providers in Massachusetts. These small strips of paper can detect the presence of fentanyl drugs to reduce the risk of overdose and can be ordered by Massachusetts-based providers through the Clearinghouse site. The program, which began in 2022, has already distributed 200,000 strips.
With its strong roots and growing staff capacity, the Clearinghouse envisions a future where they can deliver even greater value to their partners, the communities they serve, and beyond. Expanding product offerings, serving new communities, and deepening collaboration across HRiA and external partners are on the horizon.
For more information about the HRiA Clearinghouse, contact Tamaki West, Director of Public Health Services, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
FUN FACT: the local Clearinghouse team (Julius, Hellen, and Tamaki) are accomplished musicians and sometimes jam together at the warehouse!