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    New Mattapan health center shows neighborhood’s strong side

    Mattapan needed a win. It got a big one one with the recent success of a $12 million capital campaign to build a new community health center.

    The spotlight on Mattapan, a struggling neighborhood on the outskirts of Boston, is often harsh. In March, the neighborhood was traumatized when a jury was unable to reach a key verdict in the case of the so-called Mattapan massacre that claimed four lives, including that of a toddler. Then the Mattapan Community Development Corp. collapsed following foreclosures upon multiple properties that it owned.

    The Mattapan Community Health Center, however, is a story of resiliency. For decades, the center on Blue Hill Avenue has offered a full range of pediatric and adult care. The new 59,000-square-foot building near completion in Mattapan Square will allow for a doubling of patients when it opens in July, according to center CEO Dr. Azzie Young. Citizens Bank and CVS will rent space in the center, boosting the overall economic health of the area.

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    Like many low-income neighborhoods, Mattapan seems to totter between rupture and renewal. That’s what makes the new health center so important, beyond the needs of the 7,500 patients it currently serves. The $34 million construction project is an expression of confidence in the institution and its neighborhood. Corporate and nonprofit donors, including the Kresge Foundation, contributed generously. The health center also received $11.5 million in federal stimulus funds as part of the Obama administration's effort to promote health care in cost-effective community settings.

    Though one of the largest employers in Mattapan, the center can only do so much to heal the neighborhood. A clean bill of health for Mattapan will require similarly strong efforts to improve public transportation, rehabilitate run-down properties, and reduce crime.