Dr. Harrison Pierce Re-Elected Chair of Health & Human Services Commission

Members of an advisory town body that helps oversee New Canaan’s Health and Human Services Departments last week re-elected a prominent retired pediatrician as their chair. Dr. Harrison Pierce, who took on the role of chairing the Health & Human Services Commission weeks amid some controversy and weeks prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, was unanimously re-elected at the appointed body’s Jan. 5 meeting. Asked by Commissioner Peter Campbell to discuss his priorities for the next year, Pierce said the group would “continue pretty much as we are,” while also noting that the Commission also was seeking to define its role. “I know there are some varying sentiments,” Pierce said at the meeting, held at Town Hall and via videoconference.

Health Department Anticipates Uptick in COVID-19; 23 Confirmed Seasonal Flu Cases in New Canaan

Town officials say they’re expecting the number of positive COVID-19 virus cases to rise in the next two weeks, based on historical data. New Canaan had a total of 14 reported positive cases in the week prior to Thursday’s Health and Human Services Commission meeting—the same figure as the week before that, according to Health Director Jenn Eielson. “Historically, looking back at old charts, it’s next week and the week after where cases really begin to go up,” Eielson said during the appointed body’s regular meeting, held in a board room at Town Hall. “So we’ll see what happens this year.”

The comments came during Eielson’s regular update to the Commission. Overall, cases of COVID-19 in New Canaan are down significantly from a peak in the first half of 2020, data show.

COVID-19: 55.3% of New Canaanites Have Received a Booster Shot

Though just 55.3% of all New Canaanites have received at least one booster shot for COVID-19 virus, that percentage is still is relatively high compared to the rest of the state, according to Health Director Jenn Eielson. One reason may be that New Canaan is still holding clinics routinely, whereas many towns and even pharmacies have gotten away from the practice, Eielson said during the June 2 meeting of the Health & Human Services Commission, held via videoconference. 

“And a lot of people are holding out for the fall and seeing if there’s going to be a different Omicron-specific booster because they don’t want to get it in May and be told in October they can’t get another one,” she said. She spoke in response to Commissioner Jim Lisher, who asked whether there’s anything the town could do to encourage more residents to get at least a third dose of vaccine. “I know a lot of people at all ages that are saying ‘Oh, I don’t need a booster, I didn’t need the first booster let alone the second booster,’ “ Lisher said. “Is there anything we can do or anything anyone is doing around the state to get these people who are rational, educated people, and the reason they don’t want to do it is because they know they’ll have a reaction for a day maybe two days?” He said. 

Lisher added, “Is there anything anybody is using as a campaign to get up to 90-plus (percent) on demographic cohorts?”

The discussion came during Eielson’s general report to the Commission.

Town Teaming Up with Laurel House To Provide Services at Canaan Parish, Millport Apartments

The town is availing itself of a Stamford-based nonprofit organization to help provide services to residents of affordable housing in New Canaan. Members of the New Canaan Department of Human Services “have found there’s needed services possibly at Canaan Parish and Millport Apartments, bringing some information and help to those that might need it but aren’t aware of it,” Youth and Family Services Coordinator Jacqueline D’Louhy said during the March 3 meeting of the Health and Human Services Commission. “So we’ve teamed up with Laurel House,” D’Louhy said during the meeting, held via videoconference. “They have a wonderful caseworker there that has offered to come to both sites.”

Laurel House offers a wide range of mental health services and programs throughout lower Fairfield County, including in New Canaan, according to the organization’s website. “Programs and services include recovery planning, life skills coaching and skill building, supported education, supported employment, ‘Thinking Well’ (cognitive remediation), housing and residential services, food service and wellness, social opportunities, and active outreach to individuals who might otherwise be isolated,” it says.