Tufts, Harvard Pilgrim Announce Plan to Merge
MASSACHUSETTS — Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and Tufts Health Plan recently inked an agreement to merge, a marriage that would bring together the Commonwealth’s second- and third-largest insurers, creating a powerhouse to rival Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts. Tom Croswell, president and CEO of Tufts Health Plan, will serve as CEO of the new organization. Michael Carson, president and CEO of Harvard Pilgrim, will serve as president, overseeing the organization’s diverse business lines and subsidiaries, according to a release. “Our communities and consumers today face four major hurdles in health care: affordability, access, quality of health, and a fragmented healthcare experience across various stakeholders and health systems. Through our shared vision, we believe we can tackle these issues and bring more value to the communities we serve,” said Croswell in a statement. The plan was unanimously voted on by the boards of both organizations. The new combined entity does not yet have a name. The deal would bring together Tufts Health Plan’s 2,841 employees and approximately 1.16 million members with Harvard Pilgrim’s 1,182 employees and approximately 1.16 million members. Together, the insurers will have members in Massachusetts, Maine, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island.
Elms College Will No Longer Require SAT, ACT Scores for Most Admissions
CHICOPEE — Starting with the class entering in the fall of 2020, Elms College will no longer require scores from standardized tests such as the SAT or ACT for admission to most majors. The move to a test-optional policy is intended to make higher education accessible to students from all backgrounds, including from underrepresented populations. Elms admission counselors will review applicants’ essays, letters of recommendation, and transcripts. They also will talk with prospective students to get to know them as full people. The test-optional policy will give all students, including those from underrepresented populations such as racial and ethnic minorities or those with economic disadvantages — groups who traditionally earn lower scores on standardized tests because of systemic social inequities — a greater chance to access the educational and experiential opportunities Elms offers. The School of Nursing at Elms will still require test scores, however, because nursing majors are required, upon graduation, to take the NCLEX exam to become licensed as nurses, and the college needs to know that its nursing students can succeed on such exams. Students or families with questions about test-optional admission, academics at Elms, or the application process are encouraged to contact the Office of Admission at (413) 592-3189 or [email protected] More information is also available online at elms.edu/testoptional.
UMassFive to Bring Employees Student-loan Repayment Benefits
HADLEY — UMassFive College Federal Credit Union announced it is bringing student-loan repayment benefits to its employees via a new partnership between Student Choice and FutureFuel.io. Student Choice teamed up with FutureFuel.io earlier this year to better help credit unions address the growing challenge of student-loan debt faced by the emerging workforce. Participating in this new perk allows credit unions to offer their employees and employees of select employee groups access to FutureFuel’s online portal of automated tools that can help reduce the impact of student debt.
Monson High School Golfers, Monson Savings Bank Support Shriners
MONSON — Monson High School graduate Cam Kratovil, sophomore Mason Dumas, and varsity golf coach Paul Nothe, in cooperation with Monson Savings Bank, teamed up to raise money for Shriners Hospitals for Children – Springfield. Kratovil and Dumas collected pledges for a marathon golf round they recently played at Quaboag Country Club. They were escorted in golf carts around the course by Nothe and his wife, Nicole, as they completed their goal of playing 100 holes between the hours of 6 a.m. and noon. All the money pledged to them will be given to Shriners Hospitals for Children – Springfield. In addition, Monson Savings Bank sponsored the 2019 Pro-Am Golf Tournament at Quaboag Country Club on Aug. 17 and 18 to benefit the hospital.
Tighe & Bond Climbs in ENR’s Ranking of Environmental Firms
WESTFIELD — Tighe & Bond, a Northeast leader in engineering and environmental consulting, climbed six spots this year to number 142 on Engineering News Record’s (ENR) “2019 Top 200 Environmental Firms” ranking. ENR ranks its list of top 200 envi environmental firms nationally based on the percentage of their 2018 gross revenue from environmental services. Earlier this year, Tighe & Bond also climbed 19 spots to number on ENR’s “2019 Top 500 Design Firms” ranking, moving up a total of 38 spots in the past two years. ENR ranks its list of top 500 design firms nationally based on design-specific revenue from the previous year. Tighe & Bond provides comprehensive engineering and environmental services to hundreds of public and private clients across the Northeast, with emphasis on the education, energy, government, healthcare, industrial, real-estate, and water/wastewater markets. A staff of 385 work from nine offices in five states.
People’s United Community Foundation Grant Boosts JA Summer Program
SPRINGFIELD — Junior Achievement of Western Massachusetts, which provides workforce-readiness, entrepreneurship, and financial-literacy programs to K-12 youth, recently received a $5,000 grant from the People’s United Community Foundation to support its Summer BEE (Business and Entrepreneurial Exploration) program for middle- and high-school students. The funds will be used to provide out-of-school educational experiences for youth from grades 6 to 12, focusing on financial literacy, entrepreneurship, career exploration/work readiness, and STEM education. The program includes in-class learning, hands-on learning, and experiential out-of-school learning experiences, such as lessons about the water ecosystem with presentations, videos, and techniques to test the water in the nearby Connecticut River. To learn problem solving, decision making and teamwork, students form companies, create a product, and market and sell the product, with the goal of earning a profit. Students have several opportunities to sell their products and pitch the companies to business people, family, and friends.
ESB Foundation Donates $5,000 to Hilltown Community Health Center
EASTHAMPTON — Matthew Sosik, president and CEO of bankESB, announced that the Easthampton Savings Bank Foundation awarded a $5,000 grant to the capital campaign for the John P. Musante Health Center of Hilltown Community Health Center. Located at 70 Boltwood Walk in Amherst, the John P. Musante Health Center provides accessible and affordable healthcare for primary and preventive medical, dental, and behavioral healthcare services. The center’s service area includes Amherst, Hadley, Northampton, Hatfield, Belchertown, Ware, South Hadley, Sunderland, South Deerfield, and Leverett.
WNEU Teams Up with Comcast to Offer Xfinity on Campus Service
SPRINGFIELD — Comcast announced it will bring its Xfinity on Campus service to Western New England University, allowing students to watch live TV and on-demand and recorded content on their IP-enabled devices, including laptops, tablets, and smartphones. The service is included with room and board for students living in on-campus housing. Xfinity on Campus offers more than 100 live channels and access to thousands of current TV shows and hit movies via Xfinity on Demand. While off campus, students can use the Xfinity Stream app to log in and access TV Everywhere programming that’s part of their subscription.
Eversource Upgrading Electric System in Western Mass.
SPRINGFIELD — Eversource is investing $4 million in upgrades to electric-distribution systems in the towns of Plainfield, Cummington, Chesterfield, Worthington, Windsor, Savoy, and Dalton. These enhancement projects include replacing more than 130 utility poles with stronger, thicker ones and installing more than 21,000 feet of more resilient power lines. ‘Smart switches’ are also being added to the system to help restore power outages more quickly in the event they happen. These devices can limit the number of customers affected by an outage and restore power with computer-assisted technology from the energy company’s operations center even before sending a crew to inspect the line and make repairs. A major component of this upgrade project is connecting two electrical circuits, creating a loop. Once the two electrical systems are tied together, it will make substations on either end accessible when needed, boosting the company’s ability to deliver reliable power. Customers may experience short power interruptions during the project, so crews can safely perform the work. Any customers affected will be notified by the company in advance. The project is expected to be complete by this fall.
Holyoke Medical Center Expands Services in Westfield
WESTFIELD — Holyoke Medical Center announced expanded healthcare services in Westfield, including family medicine, women’s services, gastroenterology, walk-in care, and more. Holyoke Medical Group Family Medicine, an affiliate of Holyoke Medical Center, has relocated to 140 Southampton Road in Westfield. The office offers care for the entire family, including pediatrics, adult primary care, women’s health, and geriatric care. Dr. Thomas Graziano and Deborah Pisciotta, MS, PA-C, are accepting new patients. The office is open weekdays between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. To make an appointment, call (413) 535-4800. In addition to Holyoke Medical Group Family Medicine, Holyoke Medical Center plans to offer walk-in care, lab draw, imaging services, and physical therapy at the 140 Southampton Road facility starting this fall. Holyoke Medical Group Women’s Services also has an office in Westfield, located at 94 North Elm St., Suite 102, in Westfield. Holyoke Medical Center Gastroenterology will also open a new office at 94 North Elm St., Suite 206, in Westfield on Oct. 21.
Massachusetts Unemployment Drops Slightly in July
BOSTON — The state’s total unemployment rate dropped one-tenth of a percentage point to 2.9% in July, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) preliminary job estimates indicate Massachusetts lost 3,500 jobs in July. Over the month, the private sector lost 4,100 jobs as losses occurred in leisure and hospitality; education and health services; professional, scientific, and business services; construction; and financial activities. Manufacturing jobs remained unchanged over the month, while trade, transportation, and utilities; other services; and information added jobs. Government added jobs over the month. From July 2018 to July 2019, BLS estimates Massachusetts added 37,300 jobs. The July unemployment rate was eight-tenths of a percentage point lower than the national rate of 3.7% reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Over the year, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped four-tenths of a percentage point. The labor force decreased by 4,400 from 3,838,800 in June, as 2,100 fewer residents were employed and 2,400 fewer residents were unemployed over the month. The state’s labor-force participation rate — the total number of residents 16 or older who worked or were unemployed and actively sought work in the last four weeks — dropped one-tenth of a percentage point over the month to 67.6%. Compared to July 2018, the labor-force participation rate is up one-tenth of a percentage point. The largest private-sector percentage job gains over the year were in other services; education and health services; information; and leisure and hospitality.
SPARK EforAll Holyoke Seeks Volunteer Mentors
HOLYOKE — SPARK EforAll Holyoke is actively seeking volunteers to participate as mentors in this winter’s business-accelerator program. Accelerator mentors come from a variety of backgrounds and use their business and leadership experience to guide new entrepreneurs through the process of turning their idea into a growing business. Mentors work in teams of three and are matched with an entrepreneur based on schedule availability and the desire to work together. The team meets as a group to help reaffirm topics and themes raised during classes, while also strategizing with the entrepreneur on how to reach their specific goals during the program. This is a high-touch, year-long commitment. Mentor teams have 90-minute in-person meetings for three months and then meet once a month for the following nine months. Anyone looking for an interactive and meaningful volunteer opportunity and interested in learning more about EforAll should e-mail [email protected]
Court Upholds Dismissal of Class-action Special-ed Suit
SPRINGFIELD — Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno announced that the Federal Appeals Court upheld the dismissal of a class-action suit that had been brought by special-education advocates against the city of Springfield and Springfield Public Schools. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit Court entered judgment on Aug. 8 affirming the decision of Judge Mark Mastroianni to dismiss the class action. The underlying suit alleged that the city of Springfield and Springfield Public Schools (SPS) violated Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act by unnecessarily segregating students with mental-health disabilities in a separate and inferior school, the Springfield Public Day School (SPDS). A student brought the suit on his own behalf and on behalf of a class of all students with a mental-health disability who are or have been enrolled at SPDS. Two associations, the Parent/Professional Advocacy League (PPAL) and Disability Law Center (DLC), joined as plaintiffs seeking injunctive and declaratory relief, including an order that defendants provide the class plaintiffs with “school-based behavior services in neighborhood schools to afford them an equal educational opportunity and enable them to be educated in neighborhood schools.” The U.S. District Court, in an opinion by Mastroianni, denied class certification. The court later ruled that the associations had standing but granted the defendants’ motion for judgment on the pleadings as to the associations. The plaintiffs’ appeal challenges the district court’s denial of class certification. The city appeal argued that the district court erred in concluding that PPAL and DLC had standing. The Court of Appeals agreed that these organizations lack standing to pursue the claims in the complaint, and affirmed the district court’s grant of judgment on the pleadings as to PPAL and DLC on that ground. The case was argued by Deputy City Solicitor Lisa deSousa and attorney Stephen Holstrom, with whom City Solicitor Edward Pikula and attorney Melinda Phelps of Bulkley Richardson were on the brief.