Sen. Angus King, left, shares a laugh with Ryan M. Mastrangelo, director of communications and public affairs at Franklin Memorial Hospital, in front of the food pantry Thursday. King visited to understand more of what the Healthy Community Coalition offers to the Franklin County. Brian Ponce/Franklin Journal

FARMINGTON — Senator Angus King paid a visit to Franklin Memorial Hospital food pantry to meet with the Healthy Community Coalition on Thursday, Jan. 12.

The former governor of Maine from 1995 to 2003, King was given a presentation of all the different ways in which HCC helps its community by HCC Director LeeAnna Lavoie.

When it came to Franklin County Community health priorities, Lavoie highlighted the four needs of the community which are the basis for their priorities at HCC, and those are access to care, mental health, social needs, and substance use.

“This is based on the most recent community health needs assessment and community engagement process,” she said. “Everything we do is based on these four things.”

“Mental health is an epidemic, particularly for young people,” Senator King commented.

LeeAnna Lavoie, center, gives a presentation to Sen. Angus King about HCC’s mission at Franklin Memorial Hospital food pantry Thursday, Jan. 12.  Brian Ponce/Franklin Journal

Lavoie went on to elaborate on the three different foundational categories which make up the whole of HCC. Those categories are Chronic Disease Prevention and Management, Behavioral Health Prevention and Management, and Community Outreach and Access.


Lavoie also highlighted their new food pantry, which reopened in November of last year in a bigger location. Franklin Memorial Hospital was the first hospital in the state to have its own food pantry, and since the reopening of the new location, Maine now has three hospital-based food pantries.

Within the food pantry, Lavoie put the spotlight on Kathy Doyon, lead program coordinator for the HEAL [Healthy Eating, Active Living] team at HCC and educator, and her Food as Medicine [FAM] program. As resident of Strong, Doyon was given a historical fact about Strong from King.

“Strong, Maine and Ripon, Wisconsin were the places where the Republican Party was founded in 1856,” he stated. “Don’t ask me why. That was Lincoln’s republicans.”

The FAM program is a 52-week commitment where its participants learn how to cook and eat healthier and make a permanent change in their diets and behaviors. King asked how receptive people were in the course.

“I had this gentleman, he’s definitely a quintessential Mainer,” Doyon shared. “He came into my office, because his dietitian had kind of forced his hand to come talk to me and he goes, ‘if I don’t sign up for your class, I’m going to die. I eat fast food every day, and I drink every day.’

“He has come to every single class. He came to me this week with his A1C results. In September his A1C was 11, and in January his A1C was 7.7. He now cooks all of his meals.”


This led to King talking about medical cost avoidance with preventive care like the programs that HCC and FMH offer. “It’s one thing to say that the program costs $1,000 a person or whatever it is, but to then say, ‘but it saved us this, right?’”

Lori Brown, senior program manager at HCC, spoke at length about the progress the program has made in assisting those with mental health needs. She highlighted their grant programs, specifically a five-year SAMHSA [Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration] grant which they are trying to use to bring more awareness to mental health in Franklin County.

“Destigmatize [talking about mental health], just talk about it, it’s not something we need to sweep under the carpet anymore,” she stated.

The presentation culminated in King taking a tour of HCC’s Mobile Health Unit, which they use to bring access to medical help to those who live too far from a hospital.

“It’s two hours to get to the hospital,” Karen Garland-Kidder, clinical program manager and RN, shared with the senator while taking a tour of the Mobile Health Unit.

Karen Garland-Kidder, clinical program manager explains to Sen. Angus King about what the mobile health unit has to offer at Franklin Memorial Hospital on Thursday, Jan. 12. The senator noted how critical the mobile health unit has been to Franklin County. Brian Ponce/Franklin Journal

With the Mobile Health Unit, HCC has been able to bring COVID-19 vaccinations to rural communities as well as help a person in need when they were overdosing at the Farmington Fair last year.

“We go to the Farmington fair every year and park there for the whole week.” Ashley McCarthy, program management specialist, shared. “And somebody actually ran up to the Mobile Health Unit. It was pouring rain, nobody was around. They said, ‘we need we need Narcan, somebody’s overdosing right now.’

McCarthy, along with aid from NorthStar paramedics, managed to save this person’s life, which she used as an example of how critical the mobile health unit has been to HCC. “It just showed the community how important it was to have Naloxone on hand,” she added.

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