The next stop on my stimulus tour across the state to see the Faces of Economic Recovery was the Greater Lawrence Family Health Center. Lawrence is a hugely diverse city and the Health Center I visited – which is located on Park Street in one of the more heavily populated parts of the city — reflects that.
One of four Health Center sites in Lawrence, it’s the kind of place where patients come early to their appointments so they can hang out in the waiting room and talk to their friends, many of whom work in the center. Bob Ingala, the CEO of the center, told me that it’s not unusual to see three generations of one family coming together for a visit. I could see that the Health Center lies at the heart of this diverse community.
I could also see that the Center’s expansion, which is now underway thanks in part to a Stimulus grant, is sorely needed. Bob told me that the Center’s patient visits have doubled from about 100,000 a year 8 years ago to about 200,000 last year. They have 600 people on a waiting list. What really blew me away was the number of prescriptions their pharmacy fills. (The Center put its own pharmacy in about 5 years ago, and now has four full-service pharmacies in all of its clinics.) Last year, it filled 235,000 prescriptions.
The goal of the $3 million project to expand the center was to get more exam rooms and provide more services to the community. But as everyone involved in the project told me that day, the money wasn’t there. Bob told me, “We had a shovel ready project. Our usual bank told us that they were not doing any lending. We were committed to do this project but we didn’t have the funding. The stimulus funding was this manna from heaven.”
The value of the stimulus funding – about $1.5 million – really hit home for me when I sat down with Norma Mateo, who has been coming to the Center for 26 years. Norma only speaks Spanish but Maritza Ortiz, who has been working at the Center for 23 years, gladly translated what Norma had to say.
Norma told me the Center is definitely crowded now and needs more space. But still she loves the place. She told me she loves her doctors, she loves the nurses and she said she will be coming here “until I don’t know when.”
Norma clearly reflects the feeling this community has for this Center.
As I was leaving the Center, I noticed the elaborate mural on the front wall on the outside of the Center that Marc Lemay, the Center’s publicist told me, was painted by a local artist, David Fichter, in 1986. What was most striking to me was, despite the urban location, there was no graffiti on the mural.
This is a community that deserves a health center that can accommodate its needs – and, thanks to Stimulus – it’s getting it.
[Check out the YouTube video that depicts our visit to the Health Center.]
You know, I spend a lot of time dealing with paper but nothing comes close to the excitement of getting out and seeing firsthand the benefits of the Recovery program.
Continue to check back here — I’m still traveling around the state and bringing you back stories of how stimulus funds are being used.
Do have a stimulus story you want to share? Let me know in the comments.