Health center move boosts Mattapan spirits

The federal stimulus spending is getting panned by the cynics among us, but don’t count the people of Mattapan in that number. Scores took to the streets and sidewalks along Blue Hill Ave. last Friday for a New Orleans-style parade to celebrate the groundbreaking for the new Mattapan Community Health Center that will be built right in the heart of the Square.

About one-third of the $32 million project is being funded by federal dollars steered into Mattapan thanks to Gov. Deval Patrick and other officials who’ve made this a priority.

“Community health centers are essential to our health care system and Mattapan Community Health Center is one of the best,” Patrick said at the ceremony. “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.”

The crowd at the celebration heard some surprise good news to boot: The four-story building that will house the health center will also include a CVS pharmacy, an amenity that neighbors and business leaders in Mattapan have long pointed to as a major missing link in the business district. The 50,000-square foot facility at 1575 Blue Hill Ave. will also house a branch of Citizens Bank.

Dr. Azzie Young, who has led the health center for many years, was emotional as she described the long road that led to Friday’s announcement. The center has struggled to meet the burgeoning needs of its clients in its one-story quarters several blocks away. The new facility will stand not only as a symbol of revitalization in Mattapan Square, but it also will enable Young and her staff to better complete their essential mission: to respond proactively to the pressing health needs of this community.

Young says that the new building should be ready next year. Now that’s an excellent use of public funds, and a great cause for celebration.

– Bill Forry