It has been decades since Mattapan Square had its own pharmacy, and the neighborhood health center increasingly lacked the capacity and expertise to meet the growing needs of the diverse population.
On Monday, the square opened a new chapter on both fronts as residents, elected officials, and health care professionals welcomed the Mattapan Community Health Center to its new home.
Shirley Woodroffe, 65, a Mattapan resident since 1972, said the center will be a lifeline for the area, which has some of the most serious health problems in the city.
“It’s good to have a center like this, because people don’t always have access to good insurance or health care,” Woodroffe said at the opening. “For many people in the community, they need something like this.”
The 50,000-square-foot, $34 million facility will allow the center to double the number of patients it serves and triple patient visits, officials said. In 2011, the community health center served more than 7,500 people through 30,000 visits at its previous location.
Now, for the first time, the new center at 1575 Blue Hill Ave. will provide on-site mammography services and expanded dental, pediatrics, adolescent health, and other adult programs. It has a CVS pharmacy and a Citizens Bank office.
Residents and community leaders said the center is not only an economic anchor for the square, but also an affordable alternative to the bigger, more expensive hospitals in the city.
“The Mattapan Community Health Center is a leader in this community,” said Vivien Morris, program director of the Mattapan Food and Fitness Coalition, a nonprofit that educates the community about healthy lifestyles. “We’re all just Mattapan proud. Community health care is based on the idea that people need to take control of the community along with their health, and this will contribute to that.”
At the ribbon-cutting, dignitaries hailed the new center as an example of what can happen when a community rallies together and when government supports its constituents.
“I’m so excited by this journey, and I’m so excited by the result,” Governor Deval Patrick told hundreds who attended the ceremony. “It’s about the community. A community that deserves the highest quality health care.”
Patrick praised the federal stimulus package, which contributed close to $11.5 million to help pay for the center. Other funding came from philanthropies and loans.
“This is what government is all about,” Mayor Thomas M. Menino told the crowd. “We’re making a difference in peoples’ lives when they go to the health center and get the best quality care.”
US Representative Michael Capuano also attended the ceremonies.
The new facility has twice the capacity of the center’s previous location, at 1425 Blue Hill Ave., a building now up for sale.
“This is one of the happiest days of my life,” said Dr. Azzie Young, president and chief executive of the center, noting that this year marks the center’s 40th anniversary.
“For sustainable change to come to this community, we knew we had to work hard.”
Young thanked elected officials and supporters and said that it is the families who depend on affordable services that will benefit most from the new center.