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Stimulus plan funds new health centers in Roxbury, Mattapan

Caitlin Yoshiko Buysse
Stimulus plan funds new health centers in Roxbury, Mattapan
More than 200 people joined Dr. Azzie Young, president and CEO of Mattapan Community Health Center (center), Gov.Deval Patrick and Boston City Councilor Charles Yancey as they led a parade up Blue Hill Avenue celebrating the groundbreaking for the new Mattapan Community Health Center in Mattapan Square. (Photo: Don West)

In less than a week, politicians, health officials and community members gathered in Roxbury to celebrate the groundbreaking of two new community health centers.

The new $35 million Whittier Street Health Center will be a 78,000 square foot facility and will enable the center to expand its capacity from 60,000 patient visits to 103,000. The new site will be located at 1290 Tremont St. in Roxbury, across the street from the old location, and anticipates opening in January 2012.

“Community health centers are essential to our health care system and the Whittier Street Health Center is one of the best,” Gov. Deval Patrick said at the groundbreaking.  “This team and their patients deserve this new state of the art facility, the neighborhood deserves this investment in its future, and we welcome the construction and permanent jobs that come with it.”

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino expanded on the governor’s remarks, saying, “This project enhances Boston’s reputation as a global leader in health care, one of our key economic drivers. Everyone talks about Boston’s renowned hospitals, and rightfully so, but our community health centers are just as important and just as impressive.”      

“Perhaps most importantly,” Menino added, “this project means we are closer to our shared vision of a Lower Roxbury with more opportunity and more progress.”

Last Friday, Patrick and Menino also oversaw groundbreaking for the new Mattapan Community Health Center.

As part of President Barack Obama’s commitment to health and economic recovery, both the Mattapan Community Health Center and the Whittier Street Health Center will receive federal stimulus dollars to fund the new centers.

Whittier was awarded $12 million by the Obama administration, and was one of 49 health centers across the country to receive federal dollars for its care to public housing residents. The Mattapan center was granted $11.5 million. Construction is also expected to generate hundreds of local jobs.

 Founded in 1933 as a well-baby clinic, the Whittier Street Health Center gradually expanded to meet the health needs of the entire community through primary care, behavioral health, vision and dental services. Now, Whittier Street also offers specialized care like diabetes, asthma, and obesity clinics, pediatrics, women’s and men’s services.

Whittier Street also takes pride in its multicultural patients and programs — members of its staff speak more than 17 languages to accommodate the growing racial and ethnic diversity of the Roxbury, Dorchester, Jamaica Plain and South End residents it serves.

The Mattapan center now serves more than 7,000 patients each year through 28,000 visits and offers a full range of primary and preventive care for adults and children, in addition to some specialized care like dermatology, obstetrics and gynecology, and dentistry.

The new facility will offer greater pediatric, adolescent, women’s and men’s health, and mental health services, and for the first time will offer mammography services on site. It will also feature an expanded laboratory, and a new pharmacy in Mattapan Square. The new site will be located at 1575 Blue Hill Ave., just blocks from the old building, and anticipates opening at the end of 2011.

 “The new MCHC facility reflects our thirty-eight year commitment to providing the residents of Mattapan and surrounding communities with access to high quality health care,” Dr. Azzie Young, president and CEO of MCHC, said at the ground breaking ceremony last week.

 The ground breaking comes on the heels of the Boston Public Health Commission’s “Health of Boston 2010” report, which details the vast health disparities between the city’s neighborhoods. For instance, Roxbury has the highest rates of heart disease mortality and infant mortality in the city, while Mattapan has the highest rates of obesity and diabetes.

“The communities that Whittier serves are at high risk for debilitating and costly chronic diseases and negative health outcomes,” said Frederica M. Williams, president and CEO of Whittier. “Whittier works closely with the community to provide care to those facing these significant health issues, and to address the underlying causes of these disparities.”

While the report also revealed that 97 percent of Bostonians have health insurance, demand for community health centers has grown — in the past two years patient visits at the Whittier Street Health Center have increased by more than 35 percent.

“Demand for our services continues to expand rapidly, yet there are still so many in our community going without vital health care services and we cannot reach them in our current limited space,” Williams said. “The new building will increase health care delivery efficiencies, establish our permanency in the community, and act as an economic boon to the Roxbury community.”