Statistics show that Charlestown has some of the worst health indicators in the City – and in some cases – in the state. The diabetes rates are the highest in Boston.
The rate of opiate overdose deaths is three times as high as the state average.
Heart disease is high, as is low birth weight for babies born to Latino and black mothers.
“Mortality rates and death rates are still locked to zip code more than anything else,” said state Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel. “Infant mortality rates still locked to race and economic status. In Charlestown, we see many disparities in health outcomes in so many areas.”
Some pretty grim numbers, but hope arrived last Friday morning, Nov. 20, in the form of something new – that is, the NEW Health Charlestown clinic, the latest expansion branch of the North End Waterfront (NEW) Health Clinic.
NEW CEO James Luisi said the newly restored clinic – in the old St. Catherine’s School – will open Dec. 7 and provide family medicine, vision and dental services, all within walking distance for residents in the Bunker Hill Housing Development.
“This has been ongoing for five years,” he said prior to the ceremony. “We knew there were federal funds for this kind of a project, but we were denied and without the federal funds, we couldn’t do it. Finally, we took the project to our board and they took a risk and decided to move forward. Once the started the project, lo and behold, we got the funding.”
NEW is an independent health organization with a strong tie to Mass General, and will have 10,000 sq. ft. in the old school to work with. It will be the second health center in Charlestown, and one that all assembled last Friday agreed might put a dent in the above-cited statistics.
“Everything will be integrated,” he said. “You’ll get medical services from your doctor and the vision and dental services are right next door as well.”
Betty Carrington, president of the Charlestown Tenants Task Force, said the center was a dream come true, as she wiped away tears.
“I am so happy for all of us in the Bunker Hill development,” she said. “I am so happy they brought this clinic to Bunker Hill. I’m not just a tenant; I’m one of the patient who geos to the clinic in Charlestown up the hill. I’m disabled and sometimes it’s hard to get my old Cadillac up the hill to the other clinic. This will be so close and so convenient for so many people.”
Father James Ronan said the old school served the community for 104 years before closing, and will now serve the community once again.
“It is with pride and joy that we re-open this building to care for the people of this neighborhood in other ways and for other needs as times have changed.”
State Rep. Dan Ryan said there had been only one health center in Charlestown since he was a kid, and getting a second in the Town is a major step forward.
“This is a major need,” he said. “Until today we had one health center. It’s a great health center and it’s been there my entire life. But think about this, we now have two health centers and in the same area we also have six places to get your dog groomed or cared for. That’s not a knock on it…It’s something to think about.”
Added Commissioner Bharel, in conclusion, “We know this Center, this building, will do so much to work against lowering these disparities.”
Other officials in attendance included Congressman Michael Capuano, Sen. Sal DiDomenico, Councilor Sal LaMattina, City Health and Human Services Chief Felix Arroyo and James Hunt, CEO of the state League of Community Health Centers.