PROVINCETOWN — After almost 10 years in the town health dept., including seven as health director, Morgan Clark is leaving town government. She’s going back to work for one of her “all-time favorite bosses,” at a place she worked when she was in graduate school: the Collins Center for Public Management at UMass Boston.
“They’re a state agency, and they help local governments run more efficiently and effectively,” said Clark. “I do care how government is run.
“The ability to work from home is a big part of it,” Clark added. Her sons, Rex and Salem, are seven and five.
Clark says she is burned out, but the pandemic isn’t the reason — or, at least, it’s not the main reason.
“Development — that’s the part that wore me out,” said Clark. “Being a regulator is hard. People don’t like hearing ‘No.’ They always want to add bedrooms. I’m telling people they can’t build the deck they want because it’s encroaching on their septic setback. And do you know how many people have had great ideas for food trucks? I would say it’s actually zoning that breaks people’s hearts, but I have to break the bad news.”
Clark said she never intended her work for the town to become a lifelong career. Her plan was to work for the health dept. for two years while finishing a Ph.D. She never got the degree, but she did bring a lot of public health programming to the health dept.’s bailiwick.
The Yoga for Addiction recovery group is one such program. It costs the town $4,000 per year. The two existing support groups, Crystal Free and Buried Treasures (for those who are overwhelmed by a surplus of possessions), each cost the town $10,000 a year. The cost of the Winter Wednesdays social connection event series is shared with the Provincetown Public Library, and is budgeted for $2,000 per year. Clark’s favorite public health program is the Crop Swap. Located at the library, the swap has given out 10,000 pounds of fresh produce in two years.
Clark is proud that these are inexpensive programs that she says have had a big effect. There are some more expensive programs on the way, however.
In July, her department launched a five-year mental health program. So far, it includes youth activity grants ($20,000), which provide free rides and other kinds of support for people under 25 to play sports, go to camp, or take art classes; and the Barrier Elimination Fund ($7,500), which offers free rides or child care to adults who need help getting to mental health care or substance abuse support groups.
Already in the budget for next year is a more costly initiative: a full-time crisis counselor, hired by contract through a nonprofit, who will be available to see Provincetown residents immediately when trouble arises. Crisis counselors can see new patients for weeks, until they can get established with a long-term mental health care provider.
Access to mental health care is a problem on the Outer Cape, Clark said. There are not enough practitioners. Years four and five of the town’s mental health plan include money to help recruit new practitioners and provide advanced training to those who are here.
As for regrets, Clark does have one. “We really could use an English language learner program for adults,” she said. “That’s something that, if not profitable, could at least pay for itself,” she added. Clark said that Cape Cod Community College’s program is hindered by “a huge waitlist,” besides the obvious transportation issues.
“We interviewed some teachers who were really legitimate, but we never found someone to coordinate it,” Clark said. “The community really needs it. I wish we had pulled that off.
“Doing this was never my plan,” Clark said. But she added, “Obviously, I fell in love with it.”