In Mattapan, prescription for health center is new building

The Mattapan Community Health Center hopes to construct a new, three-story facility in place of its present building at 1425 Blue Hill Avenue. The organization met with neighborhood merchants last month about its plans and has embarked on an ambitious capital campaign to raise the $18-20 million needed to fund the project.

The center, founded in 1972 by local resident and nurse Edna Smith, was first located further up Blue Hill Ave. It moved into its present location in in 1980. Today, MCHC serves 7,000 patients annually, but boasts a limited 13,000 square foot space.

"That's not nearly enough to meet the needs of our growing community," said Dr. Azzie Young, president and CEO of the health center, who explained the current facility cannot accommodate much needed additional staffing.

With the goal to present the community with an updated three-story health center by 2010, MCHC purchased additional land in 1999 and is now working to rebuild their facility at current site. Young says the health center is currently looking for a relocation site for the period of construction.

With the support of partnering hospitals- Boston Medical Center and Brigham and Women's - the health center is in a predevelopment phase of acquiring architects and real estate teams. That process, which began in 2005, is "85 percent done" according to Dr. Young.

Construction, set to begin in 2009, will cost an estimated $18-20 million dollars.

"MCHC has the support of our city and state, but we need our community," said Young. "We have to pull together and demonstrate a collective response for those who are less fortunate."

Preparing to launch a capital campaign early next year, Young has collaborated with neighborhood association and faith-based organizations in order to promote awareness. On Oct. 25, Young met with business leaders in Mattapan to discuss fundraising strategies.

Edward Jay, Jr. owner of the Mattapan Car Wash and Quick Lube, says the immediate community is the place to start.

"The health center plays a major role in the community, therefore, we need to generate as much support as we can to keep their services alive," said Jay, who also serves as secretary for the Mattapan Board of Trade. "Residents and merchants are very exited about this project, but we cannot finance it internally amongst ourselves. If we can present a solidarity we can motivate the larger corporations to join our cause," Jay said.

Young says MCHC is committed to making a difference and has the potential to do a lot more if not for their lack of space. Diseases such diabetes, hypertension, cholesterol and cancer are highly common amongst Mattapan residents and those of surrounding neighborhoods. "Mattapan has some startling health problems and we want to lead the charge in providing a solution," said Young. "One of our biggest missions is early detection and management and with more space we hope to provide on-site mammography breast cancer screening, behavioral health and social wellness programs, a teen clinic and eye-care services. If we expand our facility we can expand our services and better address the many health care needs of our neighbors."


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