For Immediate Release - August 11, 2014

HHS Secretary Polanowicz Kicks-Off Community Health Center Week to Celebrate Service to Diverse Communities

BOSTON — Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary John Polanowicz today toured four community health centers throughout Greater Boston to kick off Community Health Center Week, celebrating the role of the centers in ensuring access to affordable, quality health care that meets the diverse needs of local communities. Throughout the week, the Secretary and other members of the Patrick Administration will tour a total of seven centers across the Commonwealth.

Secretary Polanowicz also issued a proclamation from Governor Deval Patrick announcing August 10–16, 2014 as Community Health Center Week in the Commonwealth.

“Community health centers are a vital piece of our nation-leading health care system,” said HHS Secretary Polanowicz. “The Patrick Administration has worked in partnership with community health centers across the state to tackle chronic health issues, strengthen care coordination and increase efficiencies in health care.”

In Massachusetts, 49 community health center organizations provide essential primary and preventative health and wellness care at more than 285 sites to over 875,000 residents in often underserved and diverse areas across the Commonwealth.

“Since their inception, community health centers have played a key role in providing Massachusetts residents with a wide variety of primary, preventative and specialized care, as well as reducing health care disparities in underserved areas of the Commonwealth,” said Public Health Commissioner Cheryl Bartlett, RN. “Community health centers will continue to be at the center of innovation as we look for ways to reduce health care costs, while ensuring quality care for all.”

The kick-off event for Community Health Center Week in Massachusetts was held at Codman Square Health Center in Dorchester. Secretary Polanowicz was joined by Department of Public Health Commissioner Cheryl Bartlett, and Codman Square Health Center officials on a tour of the center, highlighting multi-lingual and multi-cultural integrated health care.

“Massachusetts community health centers continue to recognize their good fortune in partnering with the Patrick Administration to bring genuine health reform to the communities they serve,” said James W. Hunt, Jr., president and CEO of the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers. “Our robust partnership with Secretary Polanowicz, Commissioner Bartlett and Commissioner Thorn to ensure that our patients have access to the best and most comprehensive primary and preventive health care available makes us the envy of our health center peers across the country.”

A proclamation was presented to the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers Public Affairs Director Kerin O’Toole and Legislative Affairs Director Michael Curry, and Codman Square Health Center CEO Sandra Cotterell.

“We are delighted to have Secretary Polanowicz kick-off Community Health Center Week at Codman Square Health Center,” said Codman Square Health Center CEO Sandra Cotterell. “The Patrick Administration has been a huge supporter of Codman Square and community health centers throughout the Commonwealth, and we are grateful for its partnership and advocacy of our holistic view of health in our community.”

Partnerships between the Patrick Administration and community health centers have contributed to near-universal health care coverage. Strategic investments by the Patrick Administration in community health centers have expanded public health initiatives to tackle chronic health issues, implemented payment reforms that reward quality of care over quantity, increased the use of secure technology, advanced substance abuse prevention and intervention programs, strengthened sexual education, supported smoking cessation efforts, and reinforced community wellness.

“MassHealth is committed to providing the Commonwealth's most vulnerable populations with critical health care services in the communities where they live,” said MassHealth Director Kristin Thorn. “Working in partnership with community health center organizations, we are able to enhance the quality of their services and keep our members healthy.”

Secretary Polanowicz will celebrate Community Health Center Week with additional visits to community health centers, including: Upham's Corner Health Center, Fenway Health, Whittier Street Health Center, and South Cove Community Health Center in Boston; Edward Kennedy Community Health Center in Worcester; and SStar Community Health Center in Fall River.

“Fenway Health and all community health centers are a critical part of the healthcare landscape, providing the highest quality care and services in the neighborhoods where people live and work,” said Fenway Health President and CEO Stephen L. Boswell, MD, FACP. “Together, we provide culturally competent care for hundreds of thousands of Massachusetts residents regardless of their circumstances.”

“Whittier Street Health Center is honored to have Secretary Polanowicz tour our health center to celebrate Community Health Center Week. Community health centers like Whittier are committed to providing services for the state’s most vulnerable residents, including the elderly, children, minorities, and those with mental health issues. We provide equitable access to primary health care, wellness services, and public health programs in struggling neighborhoods. Whittier is pleased to accept a Proclamation from the Governor from Secretary Polanowicz in recognition of our critical contributions to the health of underserved populations.”

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