Planning For The Health Center

The Upham’s Corner Health Committee was established in 1971 as the outgrowth of community action to develop a primary health care facility in the Upham’s Corner community. This action was undertaken in response to the exodus of physicians from Upham’s Corner moving their practices to the suburbs or closing them due to retirement.

As originally formed, the Committee consisted of approximately thirty community residents with diverse backgrounds who came together to meet on a regular basis around the issue of providing quality health care to the Upham’s Corner community. In August 1971, the group obtained a small grant from the Permanent Charities Foundation in Boston and used this money to employ a consultant to help them develop their plans for the opening of a community health center.

In December 1971, the community group formally incorporated themselves into the Upham’s Corner Health Committee, Inc. and elected a community Board representing the ethnic groups in the community. The corporation is nonprofit under Chapter 180 of the General Laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

During the winter of 1972, the group successfully obtained additional grants of approximately $70,000.00 from the Boston Family Planning Project and the Department of Health & Hospitals for the opening of the new Upham’ s Corner Health Center. A director was hired and the proposed health center received tax-exempt status.

The Health Center Opens

Located in temporary quarters on the second floor of the Municipal Building at 500 Columbia Road, the health center was ready for its first patients on January 1, 1973. One session a week of adult medicine and two sessions of pediatrics plus laboratory services were provided.

The health center was able to move into permanent quarters on the first floor of the Municipal Building in March 1973 after the Draft Board relocated. The Health Committee renovated the first floor space to provide a waiting room, six exam rooms, office and a laboratory. In May, a new director was employed and in June, the new facility opened. His Honor, Kevin H. White, Mayor of Boston, dedicated the new facility on June 26, 1973.

Rapid Program Expansion And Growth

Filling a void in health care services, the health center experienced rapid growth in all service areas. By September 1973, OB/GYN/family planning and optometry services were added.

1974 – The health center received a grant to open one of the state’s first Women, Infants and Children (WIC) food programs. The Health Committee also secured a loan to open a dental facility in the basement level of the Municipal Building, which consisted of a business office, waiting room and a two-chair dental office.

1975 – The Health Committee obtained a clinic license from the Department of Public Health allowing it to bill for Medicaid services. A Home Care program was developed to provide medical and nursing services to the homebound elderly of Dorchester.

In response to the growing pressure on space in the health center, the Board of Directors submitted a grant application to the Federal governments Hill-Burton Program to build a new addition and renovate the existing facility.

1976 – The Board of Directors authorized the establishment of a Guidance 6r Counseling Program (mental health) in January. A full-time Masters in Psychiatric Social Work was hired and two part-time child psychologists from Boston University came on board. In July, the program was certified by the Medicaid Department.

Notice was received from the Federal government in May that the health center was awarded $590,000.00 from the Hill-Burton Program to construct an addition and make renovations to the health center. Additional funds were received from the City of Boston through the Community Development Block Grant Program and other sources for a total project cost of $730,000.00.

1977 – The work was completed in July 1977 and the newly-renovated space was dedicated on September 24th by Boston Deputy Mayor Clarence “Jeep” Jones, the Board of Directors, patients and community-at-large. The new space consisted of approximately 13,000 square feet over two floors. The first floor contained five dental chairs, a dental laboratory, elevator, waiting space, eye care room, medical record area, and billing department. The second floor housed a new adult and family medical unit consisting of four exam rooms and two off ices, medical laboratory space, nurses’ station and waiting room. It also included pediatrics, OB/GYN, a central reception area, a new triage room, administrative offices and a nutritionist’s office.

1978 – Disaster strikes! In November, seven years of effort almost went up in smoke when a three-alarm fire struck the Municipal Building. The health center suffered severe water damage but, thanks to the diligent efforts of many parties, was forced to only suspend services for a two-day period. On a positive note, podiatry services were added and the Home Care Program received a grant from the Department of Health, Education and Welfare to expand services into South Dorchester.

1979 – A health education program was developed which sponsored health fairs, prenatal classes and CPR courses, in addition to distributing important health education materials to the community.

1980 – An important milestone was reached when the health center surpassed 40,000 patient care visits. However, new space was required due to this growth, and the Board of Directors authorized the acquisition of space at 547 Columbia Road for the Home Care and WIC programs, and the Finance and General Services Department.

1981 – The Dental Department continued to expand with the donation of two complete sets of dental equipment by the Department of Health and Human Services. Also, the health center was again awarded a two-year license to operate a clinic by the Department of Public Health.

1982 – Growth was the word that characterized Health Committee programs this year. The WIC Program increased by 95% and the Home Care program by 29%. In addition, Federal and State grants allowed the health center to expand its programs of care for pregnant women, newborns and young children. This unprecedented growth imposed a marked strain on the health center’s physical plant and operating systems. Responding quickly, the Board of Directors was authorized additional space on the first floor of the Committee Building (547) and upgraded the billing process with the purchase of a new IBM System 34 Computer.

1983 – While Upham’s Corner received a facelift with new brick sidewalks, trees, and a resurfaced Columbia Road, internal renovations at the health center were completed. With more direct care space available, the center instituted several new programs, including an outreach effort for the newly-settled Asian population and a case-managed health care program for the elderly.

1984 – One of the health center’s dedicated founding members, Mrs. Ethel Lennox, passed away. She had devoted twelve years toward developing comprehensive health care services.

1985 – The health center received a generous donation of land and building at 636 Columbia Road from the Leep and Peel Trust of Boston, valued at $300,000.00. The Board of Directors voted to expand the primary care program at 500 Columbia Road by moving the dental, eye care and guidance and counseling programs into the new building.

1986 – The health center received State and City approvals to renovate the “636” building, officially named “The Ethel W. Lennox Health Care Facility.” Also, a clinic session on Saturday mornings was initiated; and the first person retired from the health center. Raymond Desruisseaux had served in the EDP/Billing Department.

1987 – Construction began in April on the Ethel W. Lennox Building. A new prenatal high risk program was instituted with a Department of Public Health grant. This program provided for home care services to expectant and new mothers to combat the high infant mortality rate in the area.

1988 – The grand opening of the Ethel W. Lennox Building at 636Columbia Road occurred in June, and the eye care, dental and guidance and counseling departments moved in. Renovations and repairs were completed on the main clinic at 500 Columbia Road, funded by the George Robert White Fund.

1989 – An addiction treatment program was initiated to provide complete substance abuse services. Counseling, AIDS education and medical services were made available to curtail the spread of AIDS and the devastation of drug abuse.

HIV testing and counseling. Also, the Home Care Program added psychiatric services and homemaking for those with this disease

1991 – Tremendous growth was experienced this year. Two new WIC offices were added at 1157 Dorchester Avenue and 6 Norfolk Street; a new building at One Stoughton Street was purchased to house the growing Home Care Program; and a new computer system was installed to improve the billing, appointment, and management information functions of the center. The health center’s 20th anniversary was celebrated on December 8th at Anthony’s Pier 4 in Boston. Also, the health center was honored by a visit from Former First Lady Rosalyn Carter on October 4th to launch her national immunization campaign for children.

1992 – The building at One Stoughton Street was dedicated as the Robert J. Master Building, in recognition of his efforts in helping to establish the Home Care program. The building provides new office space for the Home Care program.

1993 – The WIC office in Codman Square was moved into a larger space at 340 Talbot Avenue to accommodate a growing number of participants. A passenger van was purchased with funds from Boston Healthy Start to provide free transportation to pregnant women and clients with small children. The health center also participated with the Greater Boston Food Bank to operate a summer farm stand in Upham’s Corner.

1995 – Renovations to a newly-acquired site located at 1140 Dorchester Avenue began in April for a new program, the Elder Service Plan of Mutual Health Care (ESP). ESP, a Medicaid-managed care program for elders eligible for nursing home placement, is designed to improve the quality of life and health care for the elderly, while allowing them to live within the community. The health center became a member of the Boston HealthNet, one of eight health centers associated with the Boston Medical Center, to offer a single standard of the high quality health care. Teen violence and health issues were identified when the Upham’s Corner community collaborated with the MDPH Community Health Network Alliance to identify priorities. Ever expanding, the health center acquired the former Martin Nursing Home site at 415 Columbia Road to build a large new facility.

1996 – The Elder Service Plan of Mutual Health Care was launched in the beautifully-renovated former warehouse at 1140 Dorchester Avenue. The first floor consists of a large meeting room, a kitchen, and various exam rooms. In addition, the second floor was occupied by the Columbia Medical Group, a medical practice designed to treat people 40 years of age and older, under the auspices of the Upham’s Corner Health Committee. An adolescent health clinic was developed to meet the health and social service needs of area teenagers. Also, the authority and funding necessary to build a new home care and primary care facility at 415 Columbia Road were obtained.

1997 – The Board of Directors voted to expand the UCHC commitment to youth.

1998 – Construction of the health center’s new 36,000 square foot facility began in May after five years of planning and development. Also partnerships with both Brigham and Women’s Hospital/Partner’s HealthCare and Children’s Hospital of Boston were executed. The federal Balanced Budget Act of 1997 negatively impacted the Home Care Department and Elder Service Plan; however, the health center took immediate steps to minimize the financial impacts, allowing the programs to operate under these strict budget constraints.

1999 – In June, the new health center was ready for occupancy. During two weekends, the staff orchestrated an extremely complicated move. Departments from three UCHC buildings moved into the new facility, and WIC and the Teen Clinic moved into the 500 Columbia Road facility. In September, UCHC hosted a Grand Opening Celebration. Mayor Thomas Menino and Rep. Marie St. Fleur, joined by board members and local officials, cut the ribbon, officially opening the new building. Expansion of the Teen Clinic continued with the hiring of a nurse practitioner/program administrator, and increased operating hours. The Columbia Medical Group suspended operations, due to problems with physicians’ scheduling. A new computer system was purchased to expedite billing. Radiology services became available and the urgent care services were expanded.

2000 – UCHC was awarded several new grants by MDPH: (1) to plan a school based health center; (2) to purchase and upgrade computer equipment; (3) to provide diabetes care. During 2000, UCHC worked diligently with several vendors to update computer communication both among the several sites as well as with our medical affiliates. In addition, the HIV/AIDS services department received $96,478.00 as part of the Minority AIDS Initiative to provide services to the underserved target populations of men and women in North Dorchester, an ethnically diverse neighborhood of which Cape Verdean women and teens, and Latinos reside. On-site mammography and bone densitometry services became available. Also, a grand total of 412 full and part time employees were employed by UCHC.

Two press conferences were held at 415 Columbia Road. Mayor Menino announced the City of Boston’s recent achievements in receiving $7.3 million from federal sources for work on domestic violence, mental health and the elimination of racial disparities in the areas of cancer and elder health. Massachusetts Commissioner of Public Health, Howard Koh, unveiled a multilingual radio campaign aimed at breast cancer screening and mammography. Partners HealthCare produced the radio campaign utilizing local women who voiced the radio ads in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Haitian Creole and Vietnamese.

2001 – Economic and security matters following September 11, 2001 affected UCHC and the entire Commonwealth of Massachusetts late in the year. Massachusetts state budget cuts affected UCHC programming and staff turnover. Programming shifted from traditional public health issues to bio-terrorism and disaster preparation throughout the Commonwealth.

The HIV services department moved to 500 Columbia Road at the end of the summer. The relocation has led to greater confidentiality of services and better cohesiveness among staff members and clients. The Upham’s Elder Service Plan celebrated its fifth year of providing services for low-income elderly clients and also underwent a name change (previously Elder Service Plan of Mutual Healthcare). Fiscally, UCHC posted in the black despite economic conditions in late 2001.

After 27 years of service, Lela Woolery retired. Lela began as a bilingual nurse’s aide in 1974 and in 1987 became one of the voices of UCHC as a telephone operator.

2002 – The Commonwealth of Massachusetts implemented severe budget cuts affecting funding and support of a number of public health programs operated by the center, including smoking cessation, adult dental, HIV, eye care and primary care services. On the positive side, the center opened a new primary care wing in August and expanded its provider staff to meet the growing need for patient care services. Also, our Elder Service Plan received designation as a permanent provider of ESP services under Medicare and Medicaid.

2003 – Government agencies at the City and State levels continued to reduce funding for vital public health programs. The center’s methadone clinic and HIV counseling and testing services were closed due to the loss of funds. Planning for a Senior Care Options program in collaboration with Commonwealth Care Alliance, Inc. was started. The program will provide coordinated health and social services for Medicaid/Medicare eligible seniors living in North Dorchester.

The Health Center Today

The Upham’s Corner Health Center is organized to provide comprehensive, personalized and continuous health services. The goal of the health center is to provide each patient with primary care in comfort and convenience. Each registered patient is assigned a personal primary care physician. The personal physician provides the ongoing care, coordinates specialty services and inpatient care as required by the patient. In addition, Boston Medical Center provides the major hospital support for specialty consultation and inpatient care. The health center physician follows his patients in need of hospitalization and participates in treating hospitalized, acute care. Health center patient medical records information and flow of frequent communications are maintained between the health center and hospitals. Within the health center, patient records are organized in accordance with the problem-oriented records system. Charts are numbered and filed by family, facilitating family-centered coordination of services. A single record is used for walk-in and appointment visits, thus assuring continuity of care with different health providers serving the same patient.

The Upham’s Corner Health Center is one of eight Boston neighborhood health centers affiliated with Boston Medical Center. One outstanding advantage of this affiliation with the network is assurance that economics of scale are realized. Within the network, those aspects of care which most efficiently can be handled at the neighborhood level are provided, and conversely certain program components are handled centrally.