Neighborhood health center leader: 'Dire' need for funds, donations

Dr. Pamela Adelstein, Director of Family Medicine at Codman Square Health Center, is shown in full protective gear.

The leader of one of Dorchester's front-line health centers said today that recent federal funds promised to community health centers — while "helpful" — is not going to relieve the massive financial and supply-chain burden that has put her facility and staff and others like it in "survival mode."

Sandra Cotterell, CEO of Codman Square Health Center, said Thursday that news reports— including one in the Reporter— that relayed "accurate" information about forthcoming federal funds released to centers like Codman through the CARES Act may leave people with the wrong impression "to the detriment of health centers, their patients and our community."

"The headline gives the appearance that community health centers have received millions and are rolling in cash, have been made whole and we are all set," said Cotterell. "This could not be further from the truth."

"In fact we, and other community health centers, are in dire straits," Cotterell added. "We’ve furloughed significant staff, our volume has materially dwindled, and we are in survival mode – solely focused on addressing COVID-19."

On Wednesday, the state's Congressional delegation issued press statements highlighting the funding from the CARES Act, which totals $36.5 million statewide. Each health centers will get a cut of that allotment. In Codman's case, the payment is $919,250. While Cotterell said that the help is "very much welcomed and helpful, she said it is "nowhere close to supplying the funds we need to continue to provide our necessary services during this crisis and beyond."

"In fact this funding will only provide a couple of weeks of needed support," she added.

Revenue from routine visits has nearly evaporated due to COVID-19 restrictions and the non-profit health center, which is "breakeven each year" at best has seen a dramatic loss in income over the last month. Codman typically treats about 23,000 people per year— a critical link in the city's health care system, but one that has proven vulnerable to this crisis. The center is also a catalyst for civic life and an economic engine in the neighborhood.

"We’ve been reaching out to individuals and organizations for financial and supply (PPE) donations," said Cotterell. "All the while continuing to provide the care that we’ve been providing to our patients and community for over 40-lus years, albeit through the addition of a new model of care - tele-health.

"Codman is currently working with the City on additional testing and contact tracing efforts to combat this virus," she said.

Cotterell appealed to Reporter readers to help "if they can."

To do so:

· Donate or share on a GoFundMe page, “Codman Fights COVID-19”
· Donate via the Codman website (donation banner at bottom)
· Fill out a PPE Donation Form
· Sign up for COVID-19 newsletter
· Follow them on Facebook and Twitter.