Dear Colleagues and Friends:
Last year at this time, we were learning about the novel coronavirus that was beginning to spread in the United States. As we all headed into lock down, it seemed unfathomable that our country would not be able to manage this outbreak and we would soon emerge from our homes to continue life as we knew it. Unfortunately this was not the case, and as the pandemic began to take over our lives, we needed to come together as a community more than ever to fight the spread of COVID-19.
As I reflect on this past year, I am deeply saddened by the senseless loss of so many individuals, some of who were in the prime of their lives. I don’t think any of us could imagine that a country so rich in resources would be so inept at dealing with a pandemic. But we were, and many lives and families were destroyed as a result.
These tragedies of 2020 taught us many lessons, some that have been more difficult to learn than others. But through it all there was one bright light that never went out, and that was the amazing resolve of the American people, a resolve that has sustained us for almost 300 years. Hard working and dedicated medical professionals, first responders, essential workers and many, many more heeded the call to action and risked their lives to help save others. We must never forget this outpouring of support that rose up from the roots our communities to help stem the spread of the virus.
So here we are today, vaccinating thousands of individuals against COVID-19, with the hope of returning to a more social way of living in the near future. At Kennedy Community Health, I am proud to say that 95% of our staff has received the vaccine and that we are well on our way setting up vaccine clinics for our patients in accordance with state guidelines. While the rollout of the vaccine has not been as smooth as we had hoped, we should be grateful that a vaccine was produced quickly, and that every American will have a chance to receive it.
I want to say a big Thank You to all of our supporters during this past year, our staff, patients and community partners. You have helped us remain strong in the face of hardship. We look forward to a brighter future ahead.
Dear Colleagues and Friends:
I am happy to report that Kennedy Community Health has vaccinated over 90% of our staff as part of a comprehensive vaccination program we launched at the end of 2020. In keeping with Massachusetts state guidelines, we have also begun to vaccinate our patients who are over 75 years of age and are developing workflows to address the 65+ population who are next in line.
At the forefront of our vaccination plan is ensuring an equitable rollout. As evidenced by the higher rates of disease and death in marginalized populations due to the coronavirus, community health centers must remain vigilant in our efforts to promote health equity nationally, regionally and locally.
As a movement, community health centers continue to draw attention to the issue of health equity in public forums and with state and national elected officials so that these leaders recognize their role in opening up access to the vaccine for marginalized populations. For example, some of the ways our Commonwealth can support an equitable distribution of the vaccine is to make sure that community health centers across the state receive enough vaccine to distribute to our patients and that mass vaccination sites are set up in areas that are accessible to all individuals, not just the privileged few.
With a history of providing equitable health care for over 50 years, community health centers must be at the table as decisions that shape health care delivery are made now and in the future. As the primary providers of health care to minority and low income populations, our input is critical to ensuring racial and social justice.
Dear Colleagues and Friends:
To say that 2020 was a challenging year is an understatement given the tremendous amount of hurdles we have had to overcome. From mask wearing to social distancing to holiday dinners over Zoom, we have all learned how to incorporate various changes into our day-to-day lives to protect ourselves, our families and our friends from contracting the virus.
The Kennedy Community Health team has also done our part by keeping access to health care open during this turbulent time. With a quick turnaround to telehealth and phased in approaches to on-site visits, we have not laid off or furloughed any staff, or closed any health center sites. We have been available for our patients to the extent possible and look forward to opening up access for them to the much needed vaccine.
Of course, as we have learned from this crisis, it takes a global village to manage a pandemic. We are extremely grateful for the tremendous outpouring of support we have received from our business and community leaders, private foundations, elected and appointed officials and so many more who believe that community health centers are a part of the solution, integral to a full-functioning medial delivery system before, during and after a pandemic.
As we approach the end of this unprecedented year, I look forward to embracing the renewed sense of community that was born from this crisis. Although we still have much to learn and mountains to climb, I am encouraged by our united front to ensure equitable and accessible health care services for all.
Wishing you a safe and healthy holiday season.
As many of you know, on October 3rd we finally held our Roaring Twenties Costume Party and Awards Event: Virtually. Although we missed seeing so many of you at Union Station where the event was supposed to be held, it was still great to gather as we did to celebrate the many contributions that lead to our successful community response to the pandemic. I would like to once again thank our sponsors for their support and recognize our honorees: YMCA of the USA, Project Bread and Worcester Together for their national, regional and local efforts to care for our most marginalized and vulnerable populations during this unprecedented time.
Moving forward, the Kennedy Community Health team will continue to retool workflows to keep access to health care open for the 29,000 patients we serve throughout Central Mass and MetroWest. About 56% of our patient visits are still successfully being conducted through telehealth platforms with patient visits, both in person and through telehealth up about 18% for the month of September as compared to last year. This increase demonstrates our commitment to being available for our patients no matter the circumstances or challenges we are facing.
Teamwork has never been more important at Kennedy Community Health and it is teamwork that has brought us through this phase of the pandemic with no furloughs or layoffs, and without having to close any of our facilities. Our community-based services are needed now more than ever as FQHCs like Kennedy Community Health have the ‘right-stuff’ to meet the challenges of this moment in time. We are well-positioned to inform, protect and care for our region’s workforce and those who are marginalized by society, who know that we will be there for them no matter their socioeconomic status, country of origin or ability to pay for the services we provide. Community Health Centers bring tremendous value to the regions we serve. We have been at the center of community-based health care before COVID-19 reached our shores and we will grow to meet the needs of those we serve long into the future.
On October 11th, the Worcester Telegram shared our story of teamwork that I think you will find interesting. I invite you to visit the link HERE and learn more about Kennedy Community Health. Thank you.
On August 25, 2010 Great Brook Valley Health Center formally became the Edward M. Kennedy Community Health Center in honor of our late Senator, who passed away exactly one year prior to the renaming ceremony. With the Senator’s son, Edward M. Kennedy, Jr. in attendance, our community gathered to recognize the legacy of a man who fought for health equity until the day he died.
Known as the father of community health centers, Senator Kennedy was so impressed with the health center he visited at Columbia Point in 1966 that he went back to Washington, D.C. and urged that funding be made available to open up more health centers across the country. Columbia Point was one of the first two community-based health centers that was launched in the 1960s by Dr. Jack Geiger and Dr. Count Gibson, who believed that equal access to health care was a civil right.
With Senator Kennedy’s support in the Senate and Adam Clayton Powell’s backing in the House, a $38 million appropriations bill was developed and approved, and community health centers soon sprang to life in Denver, Chicago and New York. By 1971, through the dedication of our late Senator, there were 150 health centers throughout the country, 17 of which were located in Massachusetts. Today, community health centers serve as the primary care provider for over 29 million people in over 12,000 urban and rural areas nation-wide.
As a friend and colleague of Senator Kennedy, I know that he would be very proud of the efforts community health centers have made over the years on behalf of disen