WESTFIELD – Marylou Sudders, the Secretary of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, visited Westfield State University to meet with community officials, professors, administration and students on Sept. 15.
The conversation was a chance for Sudders to hear of the work being done at Westfield State and in the greater Westfield community, as well as brainstorm ways for the Commonwealth to serve as a partner. Faculty from the Departments of Social Work, Psychology, Movement Science, Geography and Regional Planning and the proposed Physician’s Assistant Program were represented in the meeting.
“I really wanted to hear what was on people’s minds,” Sudders told Reminder Publications. “I’m a worrier, so what concerns they have about agencies I run or hopes, ways we can partner. It was a great conversation, and it won’t be our last.”
The round-table discussion allowed for faculty, officials and students to ask Sudders questions. Sudders touched on obesity and diabetes in the Commonwealth and substance abuse.
Though Sudders is working to add more beds to in addiction recovery centers and hospitals, she said it is important to go beyond this.
“We need to provide a better continuum, so it’s not just beds. We need a continuum of support and services on the way to recovery,” Sudders said. “Treatment of recovery is also the treatment of relapse.”
Sudders said she was happy with “how committed the school is to public service.” She emphasized the importance of work in the public sector.
“Public service is an honor. Instill a sense in your students that working in the public sector is as honorable as the private sector,” Sudders said to the faculty. “You can make a difference in an individual or community’s life. What could be more fulfilling than that?”
Members of the community included Mayor Daniel Knapik, state Sen. Don Humason, state Rep. John Velis, Westfield State President Liz Preston and Executive Director of Advancement at Westfield State Mike Knapik, as well as members of local health care organizations.