News Briefs: ‘What a Difference a D.A. Makes’; Rural Health Network strategic plan celebration

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By Monday, Jun 11 News
Betsy Schneider
Rahsaan Hall, director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts' Racial Justice Program.

ACLU to present ‘What a Difference a D.A. Makes’ forum

Whitney Taylor. Photo: Betsy Schneider

Pittsfield — The power and influence of district attorneys will be the subject of “What A Difference a D.A. Makes,” a public education presentation by the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts Thursday, June 14, at 7 p.m. at the Berkshire Athenaeum. Massachusetts ACLU political director Whitney Taylor and Massachusetts ACLU Racial Justice Program director Rahsaan Hall will speak at the forum.

More than 600 statewide and local organizations, community leaders and advocates across the Commonwealth are participating in “What a Difference a D.A. Makes,” which introduce communities to the nonpartisan voter education campaign and outline programs, trainings and community education efforts leading up to the Tuesday, Sept. 4, primary election. All 11 Massachusetts district attorney positions are up for election in 2018. Berkshire County has three Democratic candidates running for district attorney, a four-year term of office. Because there are no other major party candidates, the Sept. 4 primary is likely to decide the election.

“District attorneys are the most powerful people in the criminal law system – and they’re accountable only to the voters,” said Hall. “Conversations like this forum are critical to building awareness of the life-changing power wielded by district attorneys and how voters can hold district attorneys and candidates accountable to encourage them to make fair and just decisions.”

Taylor is a national expert on illicit drug policy, the criminal justice and public health systems, and the electoral ballot initiative and legislative processes. She coordinates the development and implementation of the Massachusetts ACLU’s public advocacy agenda. Taylor was the director of the 2008 Massachusetts marijuana decriminalization initiative campaign and a consultant to the 2012 Massachusetts medical marijuana initiative campaign. Previously she was a coordinator with the 2005–08 CORI reform coalition and a legislative agent working on expansion of treatment services and diversionary programs.

Prior to joining the Massachusetts ACLU, Hall was the deputy director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice. He also served as an assistant district attorney for the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office. He serves on the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation’s board of directors and the Hyams Foundation’s board of trustees, and is a member of the Massachusetts IOLTA Committee. He is an ordained reverend in the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

The forum is free and open to the public. For more information, contact dadifference@aclum.org.

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Rural Health Network to celebrate strategic plan

Great Barrington — The Rural Health Network invites the public to join it in celebrating the development of its strategic plan with a public viewing, snacks and conversation with RHN members Tuesday, June 12, from 4:30 to 6 p.m. at the gazebo behind Town Hall, 334 Main St.

The RHN’s mission is to develop and sustain an adaptive network of community service providers that works to improve the health and well-being of individuals in the South Berkshire community.

The RHN was created to engage community health and service organizations in identifying the health needs of south Berkshire County residents and anticipating trends in health and health care delivery to effectively assure that residents’ health needs are met. The original structure of the network is a core of the three major health care providers in South County: Fairview Hospital, Community Health Programs and East Mountain Medical Associates. The full network includes Volunteers in Medicine Berkshires, Multicultural BRIDGE, Berkshire Visiting Nurse Association, the Berkshire Medical Center psychiatry department, Berkshire South Regional Community Center, Railroad Street Youth Project, Grace Church, Berkshire Hills Regional School District, Elder Services of Berkshire County and Berkshire Community Action Council. With a clear definition of the goals, activities and responsibilities of the network, RHN anticipate changes in structure and membership moving forward.

The event is free and all are welcome. For more information, contact Rural Health Network director Debora Coons at Fairview Hospital at (413) 429-8773 or Rural Health Network coordinator Deborah Phillips at (413) 429-8777.


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