Special Coverage Women of Impact 2023

BusinessWest has long recognized the contributions of women within the business community, and created the Women of Impact program in 2018 to further honor women who have the drive and ability to move the needle in their own business, are respected for accomplishments within their industries, give back to the community, and are sought as respected advisors and mentors within their field of influence.

The nine stories below demonstrate that idea many times over. They detail not only what these women do for a living, but what they’ve done with their lives — specifically, how they’ve become innovators in their fields, leaders within the community, advocates for people in need, and, most importantly, inspirations to all those around them. The class of 2023 features:

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Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) donated $5,000 to Girls Inc. of the Valley, a gift that will help support the youth-development organization’s teen center renovation as part of its “Her Future, Our Future” campaign.

The teen center is designed to get teens to think about their future by taking workshops in college and career readiness. STCC faculty and staff will also have an ongoing programmatic relationship with the center. STCC’s logo will be displayed on the center’s ‘Inspiration Wall,’ intended to remind participants about the pathways available to them through college and careers.

In addition to having a Society of Women Engineers chapter, STCC has a strong female faculty presence, including 12 full-time female faculty in the mathematics and engineering disciplines. Approximately 60% of STCC students are women.

“We are delighted to build a partnership with Springfield Technical Community College that supports the academic advancement and career exploration of our participants,” said Suzanne Parker, executive director of Girls Inc. of the Valley. “This incredible financial investment, coupled with volunteer opportunities and involvement from STCC faculty and staff, will provide wonderful resources for scholars to plan for their future academic pursuits and career paths.”

Administrators, faculty, and staff from STCC, including President John Cook, toured Girls Inc. of the Valley’s new location in Holyoke in November. Dee Ward, associate executive director, walked them through the entire facility, including the teen center now under renovation.

“We are thrilled to invest in the future of Girls Inc. of the Valley,” Cook said. “They have a beautiful new facility in Holyoke and are offering unique services that support goals STCC has specific to equity. When young people are considering their future, we want them to know STCC is a ready pathway.”

The tour of the Girls Inc. headquarters included STCC’s Dean of STEM Lara Sharp, Assistant STEM Dean Melishia Santiago, and faculty and staff from across the college.

“The number of women in STEM fields continues to improve, and STCC is committed to the continuation of increasing representation in all areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics,” Sharp said. “At STCC, we are proud to have talented men and women teaching engineering and other STEM disciplines. It’s important to have diversity in teaching as well as in the workforce to bring in more viewpoints and maximize innovation. We applaud the work Girls Inc. of the Valley is doing to help create access for girls.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The Massachusetts Farm Resiliency Fund, which was developed in partnership with the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts (CFWM) in response to widespread flooding that swept over more than 100 Massachusetts farms in the region this past summer, announced that $3,255,997 has been distributed to 228 farms throughout the Commonwealth as of Dec. 4.

CFWM was joined in launching the Farm Resiliency Fund with the Healey-Driscoll administration, United Way of Central Massachusetts, Community involved in Sustainable Agriculture (CISA), and other philanthropic and private foundations to support Massachusetts farms impacted by severe weather patterns.

The fund is administered by the United Way, and CFWM serves on the regional advisory group for Western Mass. that helps connect the fund to local farms. In addition to responding to the recent storm impact in Western and Central Mass., the fund intends to have long-term potential to respond to how climate affects farms.

In August, the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources estimated that at least 148 farms had been impacted by flooding, with more than 2,700 acres in crop losses at a minimum value of $15 million at that time. There are 7,241 farms in Massachusetts, comprising 491,653 acres and employing 25,920 people. These farms generate $475 million for the Massachusetts economy.

Meant to enhance the abilities of farms to recover from harvest losses, damaged infrastructure, and reduced income due to climate extremes, the fund provides immediate relief but also facilitates long-term solutions that bolster agricultural communities against the impact of changing climate.

“Our partnership and our communities quickly came together to respond to our farms’ significant losses,” CFWM CEO Megan Burke said. “We are grateful for the hundreds of donors that have given to the Massachusetts Farm Resiliency Fund in support of our hardworking farmers. The severe weather patterns affecting our farms ultimately impact our local food systems and employment, making the fund’s impact far-reaching.”

Philip Korman, executive director of CISA, added that, “every day, no matter the weather, local farmers work hard growing food for our communities. This year, the fruits of their efforts were wiped out on hundreds of farms due to the floods and rains. With the distribution of over $3 million raised from across the Commonwealth — from individuals, foundations, business partners, and nonprofits — we have all helped to keep farmers farming and to keep feeding us all. It is vital and heartening for farmers to know that they are respected and supported for their work, especially in the worst of times. CISA is immensely grateful and proud to have been involved in this effort.”

Daily News

WESTFIELD — Westfield Bank invited its customers and community members across Western Mass. and Northern Conn. to help fight hunger in local communities as part of its 2023 food drive.

From Oct. 25 through Nov. 18, all Westfield Bank branches collected non-perishable food items and monetary donations. Food items included items for Thanksgiving meals, including canned fruit, boxed stuffing and potatoes, gravy, jelly, cranberry sauce, and more.

Each branch donated to a food pantry or community kitchen local to their service area. Some branch managers also gathered to cook for a local soup kitchen with the donated food items, donating a total of 126 pounds of food, which would be able to feed about 100 people that day.

“Giving back to our local communities is a crucial part of our mission,” said James Hagan, president and CEO of Westfield Bank. “That is why we are happy to partner with local food banks by running a food drive at our branches prior to the holiday season.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Throughout the month of October, Freedom Credit Union and its members raised more than $1,000 for Unify Against Bullying.

“Unify Against Bullying is an organization we are very proud to support,” said Debra Mainolfi, the credit union’s West Springfield branch officer and a member of the Unify Against Bullying executive board. “Every year in the U.S., over 3.2 million students are victims of bullying, and Western Massachusetts is no exception. Most children who experience bullying don’t report it. Unify Against Bullying makes a positive impact in our schools and communities to bring people together to speak out against bullying in a unified voice.”

Unify Against Bullying pledges to bring an end to bullying through the celebration of true diversity. The organization works to ensure that victims of bullying know they are not alone — that they are, in fact, supported by a loving, caring community of fellow students, teachers, parents, siblings, business leaders, and many others.

Community Spotlight

Community Spotlight

An architect’s rendering of the planned Towne Shoppes of Longmeadow.

An architect’s rendering of the planned Towne Shoppes of Longmeadow.

There were more than 800 people at Longmeadow’s recent special town meeting in the high-school gym.

They were there to consider 30 warrant items, most of them of the smaller, housecleaning variety, but most residents were focused on one matter — a proposed zone change (from residence A-1 to business) for the former First Church of Christ, Scientist on Williams Street, just east of the Longmeadow Shops.

The church property, which has been unused for several years now, was acquired by the Springfield-based Colvest Group, a developer of a number of retail facilities across the 413, and its future use has been the subject of considerable speculation and anticipation in this town of roughly 10,000.

And also one failed vote to change the zoning, said Town Manager Lyn Simmons.

This time, the request passed, easily garnering the needed two-thirds majority, she noted, adding that the vote, and the number of residents who took part in it, spoke volumes about the importance of the project to this mostly residential community.

“This vote tells me that residents want to see something happen there,” she said, adding that the church has been closed for more than a decade, and the parcel it sits on comprises more than two acres in what is considered by many to be not just a retail strip, but the town’s center.

While there is speculation about the site, to be named Towne Shoppes of Longmeadow — it is expected to become home to a mix of high-end shops and restaurants, similar to what exists in the Longmeadow Shops, which will only enhance that area’s prowess as a destination — no firm plans have been put in place and no specific tenants announced, said Simmons, adding that plans should be announced in the coming months.

“This vote tells me that residents want to see something happen there.”

But the church-property project is not the only subject of conjecture in this community. There is also the long-awaited start of work to rebuild the Maple Shopping Center on Shaker Road, known colloquially as the Armata’s plaza (because the market was the lead tenant), which was destroyed by fire almost exactly two years ago.

Armata’s will not be part of the new plaza — owner Alexis Vallides cited high rebuilding costs and a lengthy timeline when she made that announcement in late August — but several new stores are expected at the well-traveled intersection, said Corrin Meise-Munns, Longmeadow’s assistant town manager and director of Planning & Community Development.

Lyn Simmons says there are many questions to be answered in Longmeadow

Lyn Simmons says there are many questions to be answered in Longmeadow in the months to come regarding everything from its middle schools to the reuse of Town Hall and the Community Center.

Meanwhile, there is more speculation about the fate of the town’s two middle schools — combining the two nearly 60-year-old facilities is one of many options on the table — and also the Community Center and Town Hall properties, with the offices in those buildings slated to be consolidated into the town’s former senior center.

In short, there are many questions to be answered in the months to come, said Simmons, who noted that this is an intriguing — and, in many ways, exciting — time for the community.


Getting Down to Business

While there is anticipation about what will come next at several addresses across town, there have already been some significant additions to the business landscape over the past years, and even the past few months, Meise-Munns said.

She cited the arrival of the town’s first brewery, One Way Brewing on Maple Road; a new pizza restaurant, Frankie’s, in that same area; another new barbecue restaurant, Fletcher’s BBQ Shop & Steakhouse on Longmeadow Street; a bakery, the Latest Kraze, also on Longmeadow Street in a different shopping plaza; a new taco restaurant under construction in the Longmeadow Shops; a planned Indian restaurant in the former AT&T storefront in the Shops; and a Jersey Mike’s (the chain’s first Western Mass. location), set to take a spot vacated by Subway in the Williams Place Mall, across the street from the Shops.

“There have been many new businesses opening, with more coming in the next several months,” Simmons said. “It’s been an exciting time.”

“There have been many new businesses opening, with more coming in the next several months. It’s been an exciting time.”

What will come next — at the Towne Shoppes of Longmeadow and the rebuilt Maple Center shopping plaza — should be known in the coming months, said Meise-Munns, noting that the high degrees of speculation and anticipation concerning these projects are reflective of how rare such large-scale developments are in this community.

“There are not a lot of opportunities for properties in Longmeadow to change zoning like that,” she said of the church project specifically, but also in general. “The town is mostly residential, and the number of undeveloped parcels is very low, and the number of parcels that are available for redevelopment at any given time is probably lower; this doesn’t happen very often.”

Corrin Meise-Munns says a number of new businesses have opened in Longmeadow

Corrin Meise-Munns says a number of new businesses have opened in Longmeadow over the past year, and there are more in the pipeline.

In a press release issued after the town-meeting vote, Colvest founder and CEO Colaccino noted that “development of the Towne Shoppes of Longmeadow will essentially be an expansion of the adjacent Longmeadow Shops, consistent with the design and character of the property. We are committed to attracting high-quality, specialty retail shops, all of which would complement the stores at the Longmeadow Shops.”

As for the Maple Shopping Center, site plans for reconstruction have been submitted to the Planning Board, said Meise-Munns, adding that, while the exterior will look very much the same as what existed before the fire (although it will be modernized), the interior space for a supermarket has been enlarged, although no anchor tenant — or any other tenant — has been announced publicly.

There were several stores in the former plaza, including a restaurant, a liquor store, a nail salon, and others, said Meise-Munns, adding that the recent additions to the area — the brewery and new pizza restaurant among them — have brought more traffic to that section and should help make the new plaza an attractive landing spot.

Longmeadow at a glance

Year Incorporated: 1783
Population: 15,853
Area: 9.7 square miles
County: Hampden
Residential Tax Rate: $22.92
Commercial Tax Rate: $22.92
Median Household Income: $109,586
Median Family Income: $115,578
Type of Government: Open Town Meeting; Town Manager; Board of Selectmen
Largest Employers: Bay Path University; JGS Lifecare; Glenmeadow
* Latest information available

Meanwhile, on the municipal side of the ledger, there are several ongoing initiatives, including a long-range strategic plan for the community. Work on the plan is now in its second year, said Meise-Munns, adding that, in a town with little, if any, land to still be built upon, the plan is focused less on development and more on such matters as climate action and social equity.

“Much of it focuses on municipal services, transportation, infrastructure, zoning, housing, educational opportunities, parks, and open space,” she told BusinessWest, adding that this “blueprint for the future,” as she called it, should be finalized next spring.

There are also continuing discussions regarding the town’s two middle schools, Williams and Glenbrook, both now approaching 60 years of age. Simmons said there are several options on the table regarding replacement or renovation of one or both, with consolidation of the two schools a possible course.

The next step in the process is a feasibility study that will identify options, she said, adding that there will be several informational sessions to garner input from the public as part of the process.

Plans are also being discussed to consolidate the offices in Town Hall and the adjacent Community House in space at the Greenwood Center, formerly home to the town’s senior center before a new facility was built.

“Such a consolidation provides a lot of benefits for us — better parking, one floor, better ADA access, more meeting-room space, even more bathrooms,” said Simmons, adding that the project, as proposed, could lead to imaginative reuse of the two current town-office structures.

“We would pursue that once we knew if we were moving and what the timeline on the move would be,” she went on, adding that the structures are in a historic district but not historic themselves. “There would need to be a public discussion about what happens to Community House and Town Hall.”


Bottom Line

That would be the current Town Hall. What’s known as ‘old town hall’ on Longmeadow Street has long been vacant and unused, and its future is another of the questions to be answered by town leaders and residents, Simmon noted.

There are many such questions at a very intriguing time for this bedroom community with a rich history.

The answers will go a long way toward deciding what the next chapters in that history will look like.

Workforce Development

Expanding the Talent Pipeline

UMass Amherst Chancellor Javier Reyes

UMass Amherst Chancellor Javier Reyes speaks during the announcement of the $5 million grant from the MassTech Collaborative.

Leaders from the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, also known as MassTech, recently announced a $5 million award from the Healey-Driscoll administration to UMass Amherst to help create an open-access additive manufacturing and design/testing facility on campus.

The grant, from the Collaborative Research and Development (R&D) Matching Grant Program, will augment UMass Amherst’s capabilities in the advanced-manufacturing space and increase its collaboration with universities across Massachusetts around research and development for advanced optical technologies, which have applications in biotechnology, defense, aerospace, environmental monitoring, and general electronics.

“The Healey-Driscoll administration is committed to building a more dynamic manufacturing ecosystem by supporting research and development opportunities across the state,” said Secretary Yvonne Hao of the Executive Office of Economic Development. “This investment will help connect leading innovators, foster workforce opportunities, promote creative problem solving, and accelerate the potential for breakthroughs in a field that underpins so many other essential industries.”

Carolyn Kirk, executive director of MassTech, added that “this investment is another example of Massachusetts’ commitment to strengthening innovative technologies and making R&D tools more accessible to growing businesses, academic researchers, and entrepreneurs across the state, providing opportunities that would normally be cost-prohibitive. Placing it at our flagship university, which has a track record of proven success and partnerships in the advanced-manufacturing space, made perfect sense. When we invest in technical training at a leading institution like this, we can expand training opportunities and the talent pipeline to manufacturing careers, helping diversify our workforce and the ability of the state to compete on a global scale.”

The announcement comes on the heels of the state’s recent award of $19.7 million in funding through the federal CHIPS and Science Act to expand production of microelectronics in the Northeast, work that will benefit from increased R&D in related sectors, including advanced optical technologies.

“We’re proud to make this investment in UMass Amherst to help establish a first-of-its-kind open-access facility that will expand our capability for innovation and strengthen training opportunities in a sector that will be so critical to the future of our economy.”

“Optical technologies are essential in the 21st century, acting as the backbone for transformational industries ranging from semiconductors to mobile technologies, medicine to national defense,” said Pat Larkin, director of the Innovation Institute at MassTech, which manages the collaborative R&D grant program. “That’s why it is critically important to expand collaboration and partnerships in this space, to encourage increased engagement between research institutions and private industry. We’re proud to make this investment in UMass Amherst to help establish a first-of-its-kind open-access facility that will expand our capability for innovation and strengthen training opportunities in a sector that will be so critical to the future of our economy.”

The facility will be the first publicly accessible facility of its kind in the country and will support testing, research, and production of advanced optical technologies. Through the project, UMass Amherst will collaborate with Electro Magnetic Applications Inc. (EMA), which specializes in the testing and design of materials used in space and operates at the Berkshire Innovation Center (BIC) in Pittsfield, and other industry partners, as well as Northeastern University, Springfield Technical Community College, and Berkshire Community College. The BIC will act as a bridge between industry, academia, and government to help develop an additive-manufacturing talent pipeline by providing workforce-development opportunities for students and young professionals.

“For 160 years, UMass Amherst has been an incubator for revolutionary thinking and big ideas,” UMass Amherst Chancellor Javier Reyes said. “Today we further this legacy as we celebrate advancements in precision optics, coatings, and metalens technologies in Western Mass. and prepare to establish an advanced optics manufacturing and characterization facility right here at UMass. By bringing together leading scientists, engineers, researchers, and industry partners, this new facility will accelerate the development and adoption of these transformative technologies.”

UMass Amherst will also use the grant to fund a full wafer imprint tool, which is a low-cost, high-resolution, nano-imprinting lithography device that generates patterns for various applications, a technology that is not currently available in any public facility in the U.S. This investment will provide a singular opportunity for research and collaboration for companies and institutions in Massachusetts.

“The state of Massachusetts and MassTech continue to prioritize investing in critical technologies and capabilities within the Commonwealth,” said Justin McKennon, principal scientist ii and the co-principal investigator for this project on behalf of EMA. “It sets the state apart as a place that not only welcomes, but believes in the companies that reside here. At EMA, we understand that any new technology requires the ability demonstrate it can work in harsh environments, and with our test and simulation capabilities, we are beyond excited to play a key role in helping companies in and around the Commonwealth to prove out their technologies in space and other harsh environments.”

The Collaborative R&D Matching Grant Program has awarded nearly $60 million to projects across the state that have leveraged more than $180 million in matching contributions from project partners. This includes 20 projects that have supported innovative industry and academic collaborations and investments in novel R&D infrastructure to bolster the Massachusetts tech and innovation economy.

The grant program has supported projects in emerging industries such as cloud computing, quantum computing, marine robotics, printed electronics, cybersecurity and data science, and nanomaterials and smart sensors. These investments have led to more than 80 industry partnerships and 60 intellectual-property and licensing agreements in the past two years.


Health Care Healthcare News

An Unsustainable Path


The Massachusetts Health Policy Commission (HPC) recently voted to issue the 2023 Health Care Cost Trends Report and comprehensive policy recommendations.

Notably, the HPC reports that the average expense of employer-based private health insurance in 2021 climbed to $22,163, outpacing growth in wages and salaries. Including co-payments, deductibles, and out-of-pocket spending, healthcare costs for Massachusetts families neared $25,000 annually. The HPC found that 72% of small-business health-insurance plans featured deductibles exceeding $2,800 for families (or $1,400 for individuals) in 2021, with annual family premiums simultaneously surging from $16,000 to $23,000 since 2012.

The report highlights the unequal burden of these trends, finding persistent disparities across income and racial/ethnic groups, with nearly one in five lower-income residents having high out-of-pocket spending, for example, and significantly higher infant-mortality rates and rates of premature deaths from treatable causes among Black and Hispanic residents compared to other residents. To address these complex and interrelated challenges, the HPC calls for urgent action to update the state’s policy framework to more effectively contain cost growth, alleviate the financial burden of healthcare costs on Massachusetts families, and promote equity in access to care and outcomes for all residents.

“Policymakers do not have to choose between high-quality care and affordability. We have tremendous opportunities for transformative action to support patients and employers.”

“The 2023 Health Care Cost Trends report makes clear how we must do more in Massachusetts to provide more affordable and equitable access,” said Deb Devaux, HPC board chair. “Policymakers do not have to choose between high-quality care and affordability. We have tremendous opportunities for transformative action to support patients and employers.”

Among the report’s findings were that, on average from 2019 to 2021, total healthcare spending increased 3.2% per year, higher than the 3.1% healthcare cost growth benchmark. Commercial spending grew by 5.8% per year, far outpacing the national average in a reversal of prior years of relatively slower growth.

Commercial expenditures for prescription drugs and hospital outpatient care grew the fastest; the average price per prescription for branded drugs exceeded $1,000 in 2021, up from $684 in 2017, while the average commercial price for hospital outpatient services grew by 8.4% from 2019 to 2021.

The average price for many common hospital stays also increased, with most growing by 10% or more over the same period. The HPC estimates that, by eliminating excessive spending due to unreasonably high prices, overuse of high-cost sites of care, and overprovision of care, the Commonwealth could see systemwide savings of nearly $3.5 billion annually.


Policy Recommendations

With the report, the HPC announced nine policy recommendations.

“The residents of the Commonwealth deserve a policy framework equal to the novel challenges facing our healthcare system today,” said David Seltz, HPC executive director. “The recommendations in this report provide a roadmap for policymakers to equip the state with the tools it needs to constrain healthcare cost growth equitably and sustainably in a manner that meaningfully addresses existing disparities in access and outcomes.”

The HPC recommends the following reforms to reduce healthcare cost growth, promote affordability, and advance equity, with an emphasis on modernizing the state’s nation-leading benchmark framework.

• Modernize the Commonwealth’s benchmark framework to prioritize healthcare affordability and equity for all. As recommended in past years, the Commonwealth should strengthen the accountability mechanisms of the benchmark, such as by updating the metrics and referral standards used in the performance improvement plan (PIP) process and enhancing transparency and PIP enforcement tools. The state should also modernize its healthcare policy framework to promote affordability and equity, including through the establishment of affordability and equity benchmarks.

David Setz

David Setz

“The residents of the Commonwealth deserve a policy framework equal to the novel challenges facing our healthcare system today.”

• Constrain excessive provider prices. As found in previous cost-trends reports, prices continue to be the primary driver of healthcare spending growth in Massachusetts. To address the substantial impact of high and variable provider prices, the HPC recommends the Legislature enact limitations on excessively high commercial provider prices, require site-neutral payments for routine ambulatory services, and adopt a default, out-of-network payment rate for ‘surprise billing’ situations.

• Enhance oversight of pharmaceutical spending. The HPC continues to recommend that policymakers take steps to address the rapid increase in retail drug spending in Massachusetts with policy action to enhance oversight and transparency. Specific policy actions include adding pharmaceutical manufacturers and pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) under the HPC’s oversight, enabling the Center for Health Information and Analysis to collect comprehensive drug-pricing data, requiring licensure of PBMs, expanding the HPC’s drug-pricing review authority, and establishing caps on monthly out-of-pocket costs for high-value prescription drugs.

• Make health plans accountable for affordability. The Division of Insurance (DOI) should closely monitor premium growth factors and utilize affordability targets for evaluating health-plan rate filings. Policymakers should promote enrollment through the Massachusetts Connector and the expansion of alternative payment methods (APMs). Lower-income employees should be supported by reducing premium contributions through tax credits or wage-adjusted contributions.

• Advance health equity for all. To address enduring health inequities in Massachusetts, the state must invest in affordable housing, improved food and transportation systems, and solutions to mitigate the impact of climate change. Payer-provider contracts should promote health equity via performance-data stratification and link payments to meeting equity targets. Payers should commit to the adoption of the data standards recommended by the Health Equity Data Standards Technical Advisory Group, and efforts should be made to ensure that the healthcare workforce reflects the diversity of the state’s population.

• Reduce administrative complexity. The Legislature should require standardization in payer claims administration and processing, build upon the momentum from recent federal initiatives to require automation of prior authorization processes, and mandate the adoption of a standardized measure set to reduce reporting burdens and ensure consistency.

• Strengthen tools to monitor the provider market and align the supply and distribution of services with community need. The HPC recommends enhanced regulatory measures including focused, data-driven assessments of service supply and distribution based on identified needs and updates to the state’s existing regulatory tools, such as the Essential Services Closures process, the Determination of Need (DoN) program, and the HPC’s material change notice oversight authority.

• Support and invest in the Commonwealth’s healthcare workforce. The state and healthcare organizations should build on recent state investments to stabilize and strengthen the healthcare workforce. The Commonwealth should offer initial financial assistance to ease the costs of education and training, minimize entry barriers, explore policy adjustments for improved wages in underserved areas, and adopt the Nurse Licensure Compact to simplify hiring from other states. Healthcare delivery organizations should invest in their workforces, improve working conditions, provide opportunities for advancement, improve compensation for non-clinical staff (e.g., community health workers, community navigators, and peer recovery coaches), and take collaborative steps to enhance workforce diversity.

• Strengthen primary and behavioral healthcare. Payers and providers should increase investment in primary care and behavioral health while adhering to cost growth benchmarks. Addressing the need for behavioral-health services involves measures such as enhancing access to appropriate care, expanding inpatient beds, investing in community-based alternatives, aligning the behavioral-health workforce to current needs, employing telehealth, and improving access to treatment for opioid-use disorder, particularly in places where existing inequities present barriers.


Key Findings

Prices continue to be the primary driver of healthcare spending growth in Massachusetts. In the report, the HPC identifies price, rather than utilization, as the primary driver of the increase in spending. Commercial prices grew substantially from 2018 to 2021, with an 8.8% increase for office-based services, a 12.1% rise for hospital outpatient services, and a 10.2% uptick for inpatient care. Total payment per hospital discharge for commercially insured patients grew by 23% between 2017 and 2021, primarily driven by a 34% price increase for non-labor-and-delivery discharges.

HPC’s analyses of excess spending found that private insurers paid providers more than twice what Medicare would have paid for nearly 40% of all lab tests and imaging procedures in 2021. Taken together, commercial spending on lab tests, imaging procedures, inpatient hospital stays, clinician-administered drugs, endoscopies, prescription drugs, and certain specialty services accounted for 45% of commercial spending. Among this spending, 27% was in excess of double what Medicare would have paid (or 120% of international drug prices), equivalent to approximately $3,000 annually for a family with private insurance.

Other findings include:

• Unnecessary utilization of care, such as procedures that could be performed in more cost-effective ambulatory surgery centers, care that provides no clinical benefit to patients, and low-risk births in academic medical centers that are reimbursed at higher rates than those in community hospitals, contribute to excessive spending.

• Administrative spending of both hospitals and insurers has increased substantially, with hospital administrative costs nearly doubling from 2011 to 2021 and insurers experiencing growth in administrative spending for both small- and large-group coverage.

• Escalating price trends are evident from 2018 to 2021, with commercial prices increasing for various services, including office services, hospital outpatient care, and inpatient services. Payments for inpatient hospital care grew by 23%, driven primarily by non-labor-and-delivery discharges.

• Variation in provider organization performance continues, with medical spending differing widely between major provider groups and the rate of avoidable visits and imaging utilization varying significantly.

• Massachusetts maintains the highest hospital-utilization rate for Medicare beneficiaries among all states, as well as higher statewide rates of inpatient stays, outpatient visits, and emergency-department visits. The Commonwealth also ranks among the highest in the nation in preventable hospitalizations and readmission rates.

• Between 2017 and 2021, primary-care spending grew more slowly than other medical spending, leading to a decrease in primary care’s share of total commercial spending. Meanwhile, significant disparities in access to primary care between low- and high-income communities persist.

• Behavioral-health trends show a substantial increase in psychotherapy visits and mental-health prescriptions among young adults, alongside a rise in the proportion of patients admitted to acute-care hospitals for mental-health conditions. While opioid-related hospitalizations declined overall, Black non-Hispanic residents experienced persistent increases until 2020.


A Long-awaited Transformation

Holyoke Mayor Joshua Garcia

Holyoke Mayor Joshua Garcia says the mill-conversion project will impact the city for many years to come.


On Nov. 20, Holyoke city officials and legislative leaders joined WinnDevelopment executives and Massachusetts housing lenders to break ground on a $55.3 million adaptive-reuse project at a long-vacant, historic mill complex that will be transformed into 88 affordable apartment homes for seniors ages 55 and older.

The redevelopment at the Appleton Mill property in downtown Holyoke will create new, loft-style apartments in three interconnected, 111-year-old industrial buildings that were once home to Farr Alpaca Co. and have been vacant for decades. In addition, WinnDevelopment will construct a new community building and connect it to the residential space via a closed skybridge spanning nearby railroad tracks.

“We’re excited to get to work on preserving this important feature of Holyoke’s proud industrial legacy and transform it into much-need housing for seniors who want to stay in the community they love,” WinnDevelopment President and Managing Partner Larry Curtis said. “This project is the first part of a two-phase redevelopment effort that will revitalize this historic mill complex and provide an economic boost to Holyoke’s downtown.”

All 88 apartments will be reserved for low- and moderate-income seniors, with 12 units reserved for households below 30% of area median income (AMI), 63 for those below 60% of AMI, and 13 for households below 80% of AMI. Eight of the units will be available to eligible households through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s project-based voucher program, and five units will be set aside for Massachusetts Department of Mental Health clients through the Facilities Consolidation Fund.

“This project represents our commitment to history, preservation, and housing. It also represents our commitment to senior living, affordability, compassion, and care,” Holyoke Mayor Joshua Garcia said. “The renovation of the former 111-year-old Alpaca Mill building to achieve these commitments is another Holyoke thing we do. I am excited to witness this unfold at this time in our city’s history and even more excited to see the impact it will have for many years to come.”

The project was made possible with significant federal, state, local, and private financing. Bank of America is serving as the project construction lender and as the investor in the project’s state and federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits, authorized by the Massachusetts Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities (EOHLC), and state and federal Historic Tax Credits, awarded by the Massachusetts Historic Commission and the U.S. National Park Service.

“We’re pleased to help finance much-needed affordable housing for seniors in Holyoke,” said Mary Thompson, senior vice president of Community Development Banking at Bank of America. “We applaud Winn for their sustainable design that incorporates modern, energy-efficient heating, cooling, and appliances, while preserving the historic character of the Farr Alpaca Company complex.”

MassHousing provided tax-exempt bonds for the project financing, while the EOHLC provided soft financing, along with its partners, the Community Economic Development Assistance Corp. and the MassHousing Affordable Housing Trust.

The property’s current condition is a stark contrast to what it will look like in the future, according to this rendering.

The property’s current condition is a stark contrast to what it will look like in the future, according to this rendering.

“This decades-long-vacant and blighted mill property in the heart of Holyoke will be transformed into new, vibrant housing for older residents who will be able to live affordably and comfortably in downtown Holyoke,” MassHousing CEO Chrystal Kornegay said. “WinnCompanies has the experience and expertise to make this abandoned eyesore into a new affordable-housing community that will serve city residents for many years to come. The city of Holyoke has provided strong support, and MassHousing is pleased to be among the many public and private partners working closely together to complete this important project.”

Enterprise Bank, a locally owned and managed full-service commercial bank based in Lowell, played a key role in the redevelopment through the direct purchase of the bonds and the provision of bridge financing.

“We are pleased to have been able to partner with WinnDevelopment, a respected, award-winning property manager and creator of high-quality and exceptionally managed affordable housing, on this transformative project,” Enterprise Bank CEO Jack Clancy said. “We continue to remain committed to supporting affordable-housing initiatives throughout our footprint.”

The Holyoke Redevelopment Authority (HRA) provided a ground lease for the mill structure for a discounted value and provided additional funds for structural stabilization of the mill complex. Additional local partners include the city of Holyoke and local nonprofit OneHolyoke, which provided critical gap financing through local ARPA and CDBG funds. BlueHub Capital served as lender on the state credit loans.

“The HRA is proud of the partnership with WinnDevelopment and excited to see this project come to fruition,” said Aaron Vega, Holyoke’s director of Planning and Economic Development. “The whole team in our office worked on this project, and we believe in its transformative impact for our downtown and in addressing the housing needs of our community.”

Once the largest alpaca wool mill in the world, the 168,000-square-foot, brick mill complex features nine buildings on six acres and is one of Holyoke’s most prominent historic properties. After the Farr Alpaca Co. ceased production in the early 1940s, the complex declined and has been largely vacant since the 1970s, with deteriorating conditions hindering efforts to revitalize the area.

Located across the street from a state park dedicated to showcasing Holyoke’s industrial and cultural heritage, the site has been a priority for redevelopment since the city took title to the property a decade ago.

WinnDevelopment’s work is focused on an 86,000-square-foot section of the complex that includes three structures: Building 4, erected in 1880 and the oldest on the site; Building 5, a storage, washing, and sorting facility erected in 1905; and Building 6, also built in 1905 and the largest structure on the property.

Designed to meet the sustainability criteria of Enterprise Green Communities, the new apartment community will be completely fossil-fuel-free and will feature LED lighting; Energy Star appliances; low-flow, water-conserving plumbing fixtures; and premium roof insulation.

Resident amenity spaces will include on-site management offices, a fitness center, a resident lounge, an outdoor recreation area along the adjacent canal, laundry facilities, and 109 parking spaces.

Scheduled for completion in the spring of 2025, the project is being led by WinnDevelopment Senior Project Director Matt Robayna, with support from Senior Project Director Lauren Canepari and Assistant Project Director Hagop Toghramadjian.

Keith Construction of Canton is serving as general contractor for the construction effort, with the Architectural Team of Chelsea serving as architect. VHB is providing civil engineering and permitting services through its office in Springfield. Robinson+Cole of Boston served as transaction counsel.

Women in Businesss

Growth Spurt

Ashley Batlle calls confidence a “superpower,”

Ashley Batlle calls confidence a “superpower,” and aims to instill more confidence in her clients by making them look and feel better.


Ashley Batlle says she just took a “teenage step.”

That’s different from the baby steps businesses take after they open, in everything from products and services offered to marketing and workforce. She’s been taking those baby steps since opening her beauty and wellness spa, Beauty Batlles, five years ago.

The teenage step was more dramatic (as teenagers often are). It took the form of a physical move from a somewhat hidden space on Front Street in Chicopee to a prominent storefront on nearby Cabot Street — and a much larger floor area to provide new and expanded services.

“We’ve grown with baby steps, and now we just took a huge teenage step to where we’re at right now,” Batlle told BusinessWest. “We’re more of an advanced beauty spa now, and we’ve added a whole wellness section to it.

“That being said, a lot of people don’t understand what advanced beauty is,” she admitted. “It’s a term that I just started using to make my elevator pitch a little easier.”

Perhaps the most notable advanced service is a cryotherapy chamber. Cryotherapy, also known as cold therapy, exposes the body to cold temperatures to heal and treat various medical ailments, she explained.

“Cold helps with inflammation. It helps with circulation. It helps with mood regulating if you have anxiety or if you’re really stressed.”

“Cold helps with inflammation. It helps with circulation. It helps with mood regulating if you have anxiety or if you’re really stressed,” she said. “And there aren’t too many cryo chambers in the area.”

Batlle gave a few examples of people who might benefit from that technology.

“Obviously, athletes are number one when it comes to that. But if you suffer from fibromyalgia, if you have arthritis, any kind of condition that is caused by inflammation, when the pain comes from the inflammation, the cryo chamber would be amazing for you,” she explained. “If you have migraines, we do have localized cryo as well; we have clients that come here just to get a quick treatment to help them when they feel a migraine coming on or if they’re actually suffering through a migraine. We have some clients that are seeing some results with their vertigo. If you have back issues, we have something for you. So everybody can come in for help just getting through the day.”


Taking the Leap

Batlle was licensed as a cosmetologist in 2002, a path she pursued mainly because she didn’t know exactly what career she wanted to pursue after high school, and wanted something she could always fall back on no matter what career choices she made.

“After I went to cosmetology school, I worked at a couple of salons, doing hair, and realized that was not my jam,” she recalled. “So I left the industry for about 14 years. I focused a little bit more in sales — I sold everything from cell phones to cable and solar panels, which was a really great journey because it taught me a lot and led me to where I am now.”

She also worked as a makeup artist in films and television before deciding to open her own business in 2018, first in a tiny space in Holyoke, then, about a year later, in downtown Chicopee.

Beauty Batlles’ new cryotherapy chamber

Beauty Batlles’ new cryotherapy chamber is useful for a range of conditions, from fibromyalgia to arthritis to migraines.

“I started with microblading, which is a semi-permanent tattoo for your eyebrows, which is still a service that I offer. Then, little by little, we became more of a spa, adding more aesthetic-type services. I added lash services and waxing services, and then we added body-sculpting treatments, which help with reducing fat and tightening skin.”

On Front Street, she began adding body-waxing services, facials, and skin-care services, creating more of a spa atmosphere, she explained.

“We offer a lot of advanced-type facials that help with either severe acne or with anti-aging, where you can literally walk out of here looking a few years younger without any kind of surgeries, without any kind of injectables, without any invasive treatments.”

And at the new location on Cabot Street, “we added the wellness aspect to it. We have a lot of big machines that do a lot of really awesome things. They help with pain management, they help with anxiety, they help with stress, they help if you have any issues with sleeping, and they’re great for recovery. They’re not just for athletes; these are also treatments that any person can do to help them with whatever it is that they’re struggling with on a day-to-day basis.”

Finding a larger, more prominent space was necessary for a number of reasons. The business was growing to the point where she needed more staff to serve clients, but didn’t have enough space to house more staff and more clients. “Plus, I was in a space where I wasn’t really in a storefront. I was kind of hiding behind another business.”

“I’m glad I went down the path of wellness. It’s brought me into a whole different world, with all this technology and all of these amazing biohacking tools that I’m able to bring into our community.”

The new location on Cabot Street had been a dance studio with two storefronts, allowing her to reconfigure the interior space to both meet current needs and introduce the new wellness elements, including the cryotherapy chamber.

“I’m glad I went down the path of wellness. It’s brought me into a whole different world, with all this technology and all of these amazing biohacking tools that I’m able to bring into our community,” she said. “And I’m not done with the growth. Like I said, this is my teenage stage. I’m waiting to get to adulthood.”


Community Minded

The growing-up years have been marked by a commitment to community involvement as well, including the fourth annual toy and coat drive, going on through Dec. 21, which Batlle called a “pride and joy” of hers.

New, unused toys collected at Beauty Batlles are donated to children in the foster-care system through the Department of Children and Families (DCF). New, unused coats are donated to Alianza, a domestic-violence shelter in Chicopee, while used coats are donated to Tapestry to support the homeless community.

A newer wrinkle is an “adopt-a-teen” effort for teenagers in the DCF system.

“Because of all the toy drives that are happening everywhere, a lot of the younger children in DCF get toys, and they get to open presents on Christmas morning, and the teenagers just get, like, a $25 gift card because there are no presents that are age-appropriate for them,” Batlle explained. “So I’ve teamed up with DCF, and they give me a list of teenagers that are in the system; we get their name, gender, age, and their wish list, so that they can have some personalized gifts given to them on Christmas morning, just like the little ones.”

Beauty Batlles also just wrapped up a canned-food drive to benefit Lorraine’s Soup Kitchen & Pantry in Chicopee. And in 2020, when the world — and many businesses — were shut down, Batlle launched the Hero Project, collecting funds to provide complementary self-care services for healthcare workers and first responders, which they were able to use when the spa reopened.

“I was sitting at home doing absolutely nothing,” Batlle recalled. “So, I thought, let me put some time and effort into giving back to people who are doing this work.”

Collectively, such efforts simply make her happy.

“There’s something so rewarding about being able to give back … when you have a platform where you’re able to bring awareness to your clientele, and in return be able to give back to people who are less fortunate,” she told BusinessWest. “It’s joyful, and it makes me feel good. I just want to do what I can and use my platform to do it.”

Meanwhile, Batlle continues to promote her new services and treatments, with an eye toward future growth. But at the end of the day, she said, the most gratifying element about her job is making people feel better, in every way.

“My big thing is, if you look good, you feel good. Confidence is a superpower. I feel like you can take on the world if you’re feeling better about yourself,” she said. “Sometimes it’s just an eyebrow wax or being able to make somebody’s aches and pains go away, or just a facial. Sometimes we need a little TLC, and we don’t realize that. But if we make ourselves feel better, then we feel like we can take on the world and do whatever it is that we need to do.”