Celebration, discussion at Codman Square

Images from Dorchester’s past, present and possible future lined the walls of The Codman Square Health Center Monday evening, as the medical clinic and community center unveiled a new photo exhibit showcasing before-and-after portraits of sites around the village.

The photos were just one part of the Health Center’s 2009 annual meeting, a combination community forum and celebration that presented the year’s accomplishments, honored long time center personnel and hosted a keynote speech by Congressman Michael Capuano (D-MA). Capuano spoke about the federal government’s current debate over healthcare reform, much of which is based on Massachusetts’ experience with universal coverage.

Codman Square Health Center co-founder and CEO William Walczak welcomed supporters to the 34th annual meeting and touted some of the center’s accomplishments over the last year, such as the establishment of a mobile dental clinic, bone density services, increased HIV testing, prenatal care, sports medicine, a farmer’s market and urgent care hours on Sundays. Walczak praised the center’s staff and awarded long-time employees and board members with plaques commemorating their service.

“You all know the major debate this year is going to be on healthcare,” said Capuano, adding that unlike climate change or other controversial issues, leaders hold a vast array of personal opinions about how to deal with the nation’s healthcare crisis. Calling for engagement, Capuano asked the crowd of about 150 community and healthcare advocates to provide him colleagues with specific input and recommendations on their experiences providing healthcare to a diverse community.

“You live where the rubber meets the road,” Capuano said to the gathered crowd of community health advocates, “I’d like to know how this affects you.”

Capuano called for “constant debate and argument,” among his constituents when discussing the merits of state-run healthcare with others. There are no good choices when it comes to paying for it, he said, stating that he believes that increased taxation is a necessary and fair trade for universal coverage.

“It costs money. It costs a lot of money,” he said.

The photo exhibit, titled “Codman Square: Then and Now” features archival photographs from the Dorchester Historical Society and Athenaeum, many over a century old, juxtaposed with current pictures taken by photographer Peter Vanderwalker. Codman Square Health Center and DotWell community organizer Roseanne Foley researched the history of the square, painstakingly recreating the positions and angles of the original scenes. Her research was based on her extensive knowledge of the area and examination of old maps and records, which provided hints such as street patterns and property placements.

Displayed to the side of the exhibit were two large artist’s renderings of a new wing to be built onto the Health Center. The new addition will house both medical services and house the Codman Academy, a charter school partnered with the Center.