From the Desk of Stephen J. Kerrigan
Dear Friends and Colleagues, I’m writing today to update you, our patients, supporters and dedicated staff about some recent and …Read more
An Open Letter to Massachusetts Leaders
It’s a time of significant change in Massachusetts as, for the first time in nearly a decade, there are open races for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General and State Auditor. Add to that a contested race for Secretary of State and many of the seats in the 200-person state Legislature and we have a ripe time for big ideas at a critical time in our Commonwealth’s history just as we start to think about what’s best and what’s possible in a post-pandemic world.
As community health leaders throughout the Commonwealth, we wanted to make sure the issues we lay out here are a part of the conversations happening in living rooms, backyard barbecues, on social media and across the airwaves as you, the leaders running for these offices, chart the course forward for Massachusetts.
We run Community Health Centers in Massachusetts and, combined, serve more than one million Bay Staters each year. We provide access to high quality care to patients across the Commonwealth, but we are so much more than that.
We are a critical component of the health care delivery system across the board. And we don’t just mean because we provide everything from primary medical care to dental, behavioral health, optometry, pharmaceutical and nutrition care, but because of the critical cog we are in the wheel of healthcare in the United States.
You see, we care for all individuals regardless of their ability to pay. Many of our patients are at, or below, the poverty level and are in at risk populations. Some health centers have as many as 30 percent of their patients without any insurance at all. But we see them anyway because that’s our job. Often, we are the only thing that stands between our patients and using the emergency room for primary care.
So imagine for a second that we were in March of 2020 and there were no community health centers and the COVID-19 pandemic hit. What would have happened? The million Massachusetts residents who went to our health centers would have been clogging the emergency rooms (ER) across the state at a time when we needed the exact opposite. Eventually they would have been coming in just for wellness checks or common illnesses. Or they wouldn’t, which would then lead to two years’ worth of delayed health checks and illnesses left unaddressed. Without us, the system would have ground to a halt under the weight of the nearly 15 percent increase of ER patients.
Going into March of 2020, we, as health care providers, believed that this could be the finest hour for community health centers. We were right.
For almost two years now, local and state leaders and every health care organization and provider have been singularly focused on fighting COVID-19. The virus has monopolized every conversation and resource across the Commonwealth. In fact, everyone can’t wait to “get back to normal.” But what about coming out of this BETTER than normal? By focusing on the right investments — that’s exactly what we have the opportunity to do.
Community health centers aren’t just about health care delivery, they are about looking out for the families we serve and working to address the social determinants of health that impact them so fundamentally.
A person with a job is a healthier person.
A person with housing stability is a healthier person.
A person with the benefit of education or training is generally a healthier person.
A person with access to food security and a clean environment is a healthier person.
A person with transportation to a job, school, a grocery store, or even a health center, is a healthier person.
We need you to be a leader for the whole of the Commonwealth and for the common wealth. If we care for those most in need the benefits are immeasurable, not just in their growth and success but in unseen benefits for us as a society. All community health centers seek to do is help make a more perfect union for us all.
So we need you to focus on this:
Give everyone access to a good education. This means from birth through their lives. There are many ways to get there, but don’t let the fight get in the way of the right that people have in this Commonwealth to a good education.
Provide access to housing. Build a strong homeless shelter structure that doesn’t separate people from families or jobs to live in motels in food deserts. Increase vouchers for rental assistance, add to the affordable housing stock and give communities better incentives to build more rather than fight any. Create market rate housing, more favorable home ownership programs and tax incentives for people looking to purchase their first home or age gracefully in their last one.
Expand educational loan repayment opportunities. A strong education system with loan repayment opportunities to incentivize staying in our Commonwealth will create more dependability in the workforce. We need manufacturers of clean energy products as much as we need the research scientists. We need to build up vocational technical opportunities to create the jobs that our economy needs in the next decade.
Increase food security, now. People should not be starving in Massachusetts and far too many, including an estimated 1 in every 11 children, experience hunger every day. We need a moonshot approach to eliminating food insecurity in the Commonwealth.
True health care for all. We must continue to find new and creative ways to increase access to care for our neighbors, family, friends, colleagues and complete strangers, regardless of their ability to pay. And we need a health care system that covers the TOTAL cost of care and doesn’t force people to choose between paying their bills and maintaining their health.
The support of the federal, state and local elected and appointed officials played a big role in our survival during this pandemic. The current administration and state lawmakers have enacted historic rate increases for community health centers. Along with recent investments in the health center workforce, and support from the federal government, the Commonwealth has realized that a network of strong, efficient, and effective community health centers is a cornerstone of Massachusetts’ future. But if we don’t take this once in a lifetime chance at seismic systemic change NOW then what did it all mean?
Be a leader for the common wealth and you will be a great leader for Massachusetts.
Stephen J. Kerrigan, President & CEO, Kennedy Community Health Center (Worcester, Framingham, Milford)
December 1, 2021: World AIDS Day
HIV cases spiked this year. We need more screening
There’s an entire generation of Americans who have no living memory of Ryan White’s courage, his story and the impact that fresh-faced teenager’s battle with HIV did to jumpstart our nation’s battle with HIV and AIDS.
But today, on World AIDS Day, even as we celebrate the federal effort begun in Ryan White’s name three decades ago, we must also act to address some difficult truths about the all-too-persistent challenges that continue to haunt that battle. The inequitable access to care, the social and cultural stigmas that keep too many from seeking care and the roadblocks that mean too much of the community health work is focused on treatment, not prevention.
For me, this is a deeply personal fight.
I’m a gay man leading one of the largest community health centers in Central Massachusetts, one that carries the name of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, the man I was an intern for in 1990 when he led the charge for the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Act. Unfortunately, the pandemic has exposed many inequities and challenges to this work and we need leaders on Beacon Hill and Capitol Hill to take note.
Earlier this year, our region saw a spike in new HIV diagnoses tied to drug use, particularly those who share contaminated needles. The CDC reported that this increase, also seen in cases of viral hepatitis and other bacterial and fungal infections, was pronounced in many rural and suburban communities.
Our team has also noted an emerging trend of cases linked to polysubstance use — using more than one drug at once — and methamphetamine use and we are expecting a surge of cases tied to lockdown-related care disruptions.
But the biggest challenge we face is that HIV continues to spread in the shadows and our systems are not responding to properly prevent an escalation of the spread that we can see coming. In the United States, about 14%, or one in seven, of the estimated 1 million people living with HIV don’t even know they have it. Beyond that, undiagnosed individuals account for between 30 and 40% of the transmission.
Today, I am honored to stand with Ericka Olivera and her team who lead our center’s Ryan White program. We are one of the many beneficiaries of federal funding, which has grown from $220 million the year the Ryan White Act was signed to more than $2 billion today.
The biggest challenge we face is that HIV continues to spread in the shadows …
Our team provides comprehensive care to 115 patients with HIV/AIDS, with the goal of helping them to suppress and live with the virus. We create an individualized care plan for every patient, including continuous patient monitoring, re-evaluation every six months, supportive counseling and advocacy in a range of non-health but clearly related areas — from transportation, food security, housing and other benefits.
We have treatments that work but not if we can’t prevent the spread. The federal preventive services task force recommends all adults be screened at least once during their lifetime and more frequently among those with increased risk factors. But even if that were happening, which it isn’t, that’s not nearly enough screening to stop the spread.
And as much good as can happen with federal grants like the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, our teams need more flexibility from the federal government to carry out that mandate by focusing more time on prevention.
When speaking on the Senate floor in 1990, Sen. Kennedy said that Ryan White never condemned anyone after he received the tainted blood that ultimately killed him. Rather, White was “reaching out in the true spirit of the American character to recognize that there were people who were suffering.”
For too many, the suffering continues. It’s time for us, as a nation, to redouble our efforts for Ted Kennedy, Ryan White and another generation of people who deserve better.
Stephen J. Kerrigan, President and CEO, appointed to America250 Advisory Council
America250 Launches 11 Advisory Councils
Advisory Councils expand the reach and resources of America250 to engage all Americans in the most inclusive commemoration in U.S. history
“We are excited to introduce our 11 Advisory Councils as we seek to connect with millions of Americans on our journey to 2026,” said Dr. Carleen Carey, Director of Public Outreach and Inclusion at America250. “Each council is composed of industry luminaries and leading experts in their respective fields who are empowered by America250’s mission and values. We look forward to the thoughtful contributions they will bring to this commemoration to ensure we are capturing the many voices of Americans.”
The current roster of Advisory Councils includes: Arts & Culture; Health & Wellness; History Education; Hospitality & Tourism; Innovation, Science & Entrepreneurship; International; Parks, Preservation & Public Spaces; Sports & Entertainment; Veterans, Military & Family Members; Youth Engagement; and Young Leaders. As America250 continues planning and preparations, additional Advisory Councils will be created.
Health & Wellness Advisory Council
The Health & Wellness Advisory Council will bring together America’s experts in each area of health and wellness, covering topics of physical health, mental health, social well-being, and environmental health. Experts will inform the Foundation on the historic developments of health and wellness in America while also exploring the advancements and challenges of the present and future, enabling America250 to explore programs and partnerships that contribute to the overall health of our nation and its people.
● Ramsey Alwin, President & CEO, National Council on Aging (NCOA)
● Dr. Alicia Bazzano, Chief Health Officer, Special Olympics
● Dr. Georges Benjamin, Executive Director, American Public Health Association
● Stacy Bohlen, Chief Executive Officer, National Indian Health Board
● Dr. Jane Delgado, President and CEO, National Alliance for Hispanic Health (Co-Chair)
● Dr. Victor Dzau, President, National Academy of Medicine
● Dr. Judy Heumann, President, Judith Heumann LLC (Co-Chair)
● Dr. Sara Newman, Director, National Park Service, Office of Public Health (Ex-Officio)
● Stephen Kerrigan, President and CEO, Edward M. Kennedy Community Health Center
● Dr. Oluwaferanmi Okanlami, Director, Assistant Professor, University of Michigan and UCLA
● Amit Paley, CEO & Executive Director, The Trevor Project
● Dr. Cheri Blauwet, Sports Medicine Physician and Assistant Professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Harvard Medical School
America250 is a multiyear effort to commemorate the semiquincentennial, or 250th anniversary, of the United States. The purpose of the U.S. Semiquincentennial Commission, created by Congress, and the corresponding America250 Foundation, is to catalyze a more perfect union by designing and leading the most comprehensive and inclusive celebration in our country’s history. America250 represents a coalition of public and private partners all working to create initiatives and programs that honor our first 250 years
and inspire Americans to imagine our next 250. The commemoration period began in 2020, culminates on July 4, 2026, and officially concludes in 2027. For more information, visit www.america250.org and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Dear Colleagues and Friends:
On October 7th, we celebrated the best of our community by honoring Congressman James P. McGovern and Ismael “Izzy” Rivera and Program RISE. Each, in their own right, are leaders, partners and role models who have helped to pave a path forward for Central Massachusetts and MetroWest.
In addition to being a strong advocate for the community health center movement, Congressman Jim McGovern has spearheaded efforts to increase support for families who qualify for food assistance programs, and is a champion for expanded children’s nutrition programs, both domestically and internationally.
For the last 11 years, Izzy Rivera has been working with the Justice Resource Institute and Program RISE, dedicated to connecting those who need sexual health services in the MetroWest area with HIV, STI, and Viral Hepatitis prevention, testing, treatment, and education, with particular attention in reaching historically underserved and minority populations.
We congratulate both of our honorees and thank them again for their relentless efforts to serve the common good.
I also want to call attention to the wonderful opportunity we have to recognize the contributions and influence of Hispanic and Latinx Americans to our country’s history, culture, and achievements with National Hispanic Heritage Month, celebrated in the U.S. between September 15th to October 15th.
As a provider of equitable health care services to over 27,000 patients, of which 53% identify as Hispanic/Latinx, Kennedy Community Health proudly celebrates the rich traditions of the Hispanic and Latinx people who have worked hard to help shape our nation and our community.
You can learn more about Hispanic Heritage Month by visiting
Remember. Honor. Serve.
Dear Colleagues and Friends:
Few of us who are old enough to remember Tuesday, September 11, 2001 can forget the clearness of that blue sky morning or the darkness that followed.
That day and the murder of thousands of people changed the world forever. It led to two wars, thousands of military and civilian casualties (on and off the battlefield) and countless physical and mental wounds. And although I didn’t lose a loved one on September 11th, I will be forever changed by that day and by the loved ones I gained in the wake of that terror and the destruction it left behind.
I worked for Massachusetts’ Senior Senator, Ted Kennedy, on September 11th and on that day, as always, his focus was on supporting Massachusetts’ families and those most in need. In a quick call as the crisis unfolded, his marching orders were clear – reach the families and tell those targeted by hate crimes that we have their backs. Soon after we hung up from that call, the towers fell. Then our work began in earnest. In the hours, days, weeks and months ahead we worked on little else. The response to September 11th was our job.
There was constant reaching out to the victims’ families on the 11th itself and the days that followed saying “How can we help? We are here for you.” We developed a tragedy response system that included 38 federal, state, local, and NGO agencies to meet the horrible moment we were in. When the government response wasn’t sufficient, we formed the Mass 9/11 Fund and made sure our families all had the support they needed in that moment and for decades to come.
I was raised to believe that if you have the ability and the opportunity to make a difference, you have an obligation to try.
As a result, my work in the early months after that tragic day were some of the most difficult yet rewarding times in my career. I felt I was helping to make a real difference for people, little did I know they were helping me.
I met so many incredible people in the wake of that horrible day. I watched, and sometimes helped, as they picked up the pieces of their shattered lives and tried to make sense of it all. I have cried with too many of them to mention but all of whom found a way through the tears.
September 11th has meant many things to me over the past 20 years. Initially it was about helping to support the Massachusetts’ families of the victims of those horrific terrorist attacks. That quickly evolved into helping those families to find a way to remember their loved ones with a memorial service and to honor them with a Garden of Remembrance. But mostly it’s been an opportunity to learn from their strength and purpose, and a chance to remember, honor and serve.
Long before the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act was signed into law making September 11th a “National Day of Service,” Americans and 9/11 families, were using that day, or the tragedy they suffered, as vehicles to make a difference. As a result, September 11th has many legacies. We remember those who once occupied the 2,977 now empty chairs at our holiday tables and with the support of the community, through monuments and memorials and curriculum in our schools, we hope that no one will ever forget them. We honor those lost with named scholarship funds and foundations, through road races and family fun days and by launching nonprofits to help the families of our fallen military heroes and to build schools for girls in Afghanistan.
And we serve.
So many 9/11 families took their grief and poured it into a foundation on which great acts of love and service to others were built. In fact, I think service itself may very well be the greatest legacy of September 11th because it has the longest lasting effect. If you do something for and with others, you gain so much for yourself and it makes you want to continue to help those who need it. Through service we grow, we learn, we support, we thrive, we build, and we challenge ourselves and create endless possibilities. Through service we give the aftermath of September 11th a purpose and we show those who believe in hate over love, or fear over compassion, that they did not win that day.
Out of the grief of that day we saw a world united and inspired to embody that bright clear beautiful blue sky and all its potential. So as we stop to acknowledge the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, let us remember all the mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, aunts, uncles, wives, husbands, friends, colleagues and even strangers we lost that day. Let us honor their memories with great purpose and pride.
And, yes, let us serve.
Leading Means Vaccine Mandates
COVID cases are once again on the rise. People are getting sick. People are scared.
Businesses, including hospitals and healthcare providers are returning to all-too-familiar protocols to again try to slow the spread. We’re encouraging those at risk to mask back up, we’re doubling and tripling down on sanitizing measures and continuing to beat the drum about the benefits of vaccinations.
In too many circles, there’s still a debate about vaccine requirements. There shouldn’t be.
Employers, government agencies, schools should all be mandating vaccines for everyone who is eligible, with very few exceptions.
Is it easy? No. But it shouldn’t be this hard.
With the case trajectory pointing upward, we cannot afford to get caught in the political tornado that has developed around the vaccine. Rather, we have to push past the noise and look to the clear, demonstrable benefits.
There is no scientific doubt that getting vaccinated saves lives – not just those that receive the vaccine, but those around them who are not able to get the vaccine due to medical conditions. Furthermore, there is little evidence the vaccines themselves are unsafe, as adverse effects from the vaccine have been very low. And even when rare breakthrough cases occur, it is very unlikely a vaccinated person will require hospitalization.
The vaccines are safe, the vaccines are effective. Trust the science.
And the scientists are telling us that these protections can be undone if we don’t all get vaccinated if we are able to. We are seeing an example of this now with the Delta variant.
It has been widely reported that 97 percent of recent COVID cases are attributed to the unvaccinated. The longer the virus is able to circulate, the more at risk we all become. The most at risk of severe illness are, of course, the unvaccinated but the truth is, we don’t know how unvaccinated children or others might react to future, potentially stronger variants if we allow COVID to linger another year.
So, it is critical that we do all we can to get our communities, our friends and families, vaccinated.
And that means stronger action, even in the workplace. I have always believed in leading by example. As far back as last fall, long before the COVID 19 vaccine was beginning to be distributed, the Edward M. Kennedy Community Health Center decided to mandate that staff get the vaccine once it was available to healthcare workers in the first phase. This was to keep both our staff and our patients as safe and healthy as possible. It was also because as a leader in providing community health, it was important for us to set an example to our patients and the communities we serve.
We communicated with our team clearly, repeatedly, honestly and directly. We allowed waivers for those who had medical or religious reasons for not getting the vaccine. But we told those who didn’t that to continue to work with our patients or at our Health Center, they needed to lead by example.
Nearly 100 percent of our staff is now vaccinated, with just a handful obtaining waivers due to medical or religious reasons. And we had very little opposition to our mandate throughout the process.
We informed our staff in November 2020 that we would be receiving the Moderna doses. By late December 2020, our staff were getting their first shots and all our eligible employees were vaccinated by the end of February
In all, we’ve had 63 positive COVID cases among our 390 employees. Since February 10, right about the time everyone was fully vaccinated, we have had no new COVID cases among our staff.
This was a tremendous outcome for our frontline workers and all of us who support them. And it tells a powerful story to our patients that everyone who works at our Kennedy Community health, from their providers and clinical team through to all the staff, believe in the vaccine for themselves and for our patients.
We believe that’s part of why so many of our patients, even those who are harder to reach, are opting to get vaccinated.
In our health center sites and around the globe, our fight against COVID-19 is far from over. The fact remains, vaccines are the most effective way to prevent the spread of COVID 19 and the development of future, potentially more dangerous variants. There are still many out there who have not gotten vaccinated.
But we have to do our part. That should mean mandating the vaccine to all who are eligible.
When I joined the Edward M. Kennedy Community Health Center as President and CEO in July 2019, I knew it would be both the honor of a lifetime and an exciting professional challenge. While I’ve held numerous leadership roles in the past, none has had the scope and impact of the work our team does at the Health Center. Knowing that our work affects thousands of families across Central and MetroWest Massachusetts left me feeling the weight of the responsibility of the position and understanding the complexity involved with taking on a role that has a direct impact on so many lives. However, I’ve always felt that if you have the opportunity to make a difference, you have an obligation to try. So I dove in head first, naive, for certain, to the myriad challenges that already existed and to the one we all would soon face.
A little more than six months after beginning my tenure as President and CEO, the world changed forever. COVID-19 came in like a wave, crippling the way in which we all lived, worked and cared for our families. One thing was clear from the beginning, however, keeping access open to health care for our patients meant meeting this moment head-on. Flexibility became the name of the game as we worked to address the ever-changing guidance and regulations to keep our staff, patients and community safe during these uncharted times. Our staff, Board of Directors and Health Center leadership shone as we quickly pivoted to ensure uninterrupted access to vital health care services at all times. As a community health center, we’ve always understood the impact of systemic racism on our health care system, and as the pandemic progressed, it became abundantly clear that disenfranchised and marginalized communities were bearing the brunt of the virus, making our work all the more important.
NBA coach Phil Jackson once said, “The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.” This has never been more clear than it has over the past year and a half. We are fortunate to have a team of incredibly well-trained and highly-skilled health care professionals who are members of the community we serve, and therefore understand the needs of, and how best to reach, our patients. By building on their expertise and empowering them with the resources they needed to be flexible in their approach to care, they went to work to cater our services to those who needed them most during the pandemic. We were guided by the notion of setting the bar high – doing whatever it took to provide for our patients. There was never a time more critical in our history to rise to the moment. Our patients always come first despite the circumstances so it meant re-writing the playbook to keep access open. And that’s what we did hour after hour, week after week, month after month, pivoting on a dime to meet patient needs.
Of course, this approach requires not only flexibility and ingenuity, which we have in ample supply, it also requires financial resources, something health centers are not known to have in abundance. As such, community health centers joined forces once again as a movement, and called on Congress to pass immediate emergency funding. Locally, we engaged with our partners to find innovative ways to work together to fulfill the growing health and social needs of our communities. Our local foundations also stood up and heeded the call, providing financial support to those of us on the front lines, helping us to remain steadfast in our mission. And there was an outpouring of support from individuals, small businesses, and community groups to help fill gaps in the scarce supply of personal protective equipment (PPE).
Meeting the moment meant doing whatever it took to keep our patients, our staff, and our community safe. We pivoted to telehealth for our behavioral health visits in just twenty-four hours – a tremendous feat that helped us reach our patients and keep us open at a time when mental health stressors were at an all-time high. Primary care services went virtual quickly as well and with strict safety measures, we were able to keep our health center doors open for those whose needs couldn’t be met virtually. We avoided furloughs and lay-offs because we know teamwork is essential to everything we do, and we knew all-hands-on-deck was the only approach that would work. We demonstrated our unwavering dedication and commitment to high-quality care and invested in the infrastructure of our organization, to ensure that we would emerge stronger than ever before because we know the work is never done.
As we look forward to our current challenge: ensuring equity and accessibility of the COVID vaccine, we at Kennedy Community Health find ourselves in another central role to not only ensure the health of our patients, but that of the community as a whole. Never shying away from adversity, we jumped in head first to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible. To date, we have successfully vaccinated 99% of our team members along with thousands of patients and community members. That same relentless dedication to health equity is ever present as we continue to push the boundaries, identifying gaps in access and jumping in to fill these holes in whatever capacity we can; strengthening our partnerships in and around the community to better serve; and projecting forward to position Kennedy Community Health for a better tomorrow because here, our patients will always come first.
Pride Month is Every Month at Kennedy Community Health
June 30th marked the end of Pride Month, an annual time of celebration and reflection on how we as a society can become more inclusive, accepting, and dialed into the issues facing those who identify as LGBTQIA+. At the Edward M. Kennedy Community Health Center (Kennedy Community Health), our celebration of Pride is not limited to only one month a year, rather it is cherished and reflected upon every day through our inclusive approach to the delivery of health care.
At the very core of our mission remains the commitment to providing high-quality health care and service to all individuals, regardless of ability to pay, where they come from, their belief system or who they are as an individual. We treat all of our patients with the same level of respect, protecting their privacy, and treating them with dignity. Our patients are our partners in care, and our job is to empower them with the tools they need to help them live healthier lives. In every aspect of our operations, from our care delivery, to our hiring practices or our physical environment, this mentality of togetherness is and will always remain a top priority.
We believe in equity in every sense of the word, and this, of course spills over into the LGBTQIA+ health care and services we provide. As a matter of practice, LGBTQIA+ friendly and knowledgeable providers and staff are integrated throughout the Health Center. We also provide a whole spectrum of services catered to the needs of all the colors of the rainbow: LGBTQIA+ informed mental and behavioral health care, LGBTQIA+ informed comprehensive medical care, including gynecologic care and pregnancy care, STD/STI/HIV testing and counseling, HIV care and services, and PEP and PrEP (HIV infection prevention and medication). In addition, gender affirming hormone therapy and monitoring, and referrals for gender affirming surgery are offered and will be enhanced with a dedicated transgender practice in the near future.
Our providers establish a working relationship with each of our patients, to engage them in the care they receive and also to establish rapport and build trust. We have built an environment in which patients feel empowered to disclose personal information, and we collect sexual orientation and gender identity information from each of our patients, regardless of where in the practice they receive their care. This allows our team to be responsive to their individual needs, such as providing transgender men with the gynecological care they may need or providing the multi-disciplinary care and support our patients need through their gender affirmation journey.
Kennedy Community Health is committed to providing culturally competent care through on-going learning, listening and support. We remain committed to working as a partner to uplift marginalized and disenfranchised populations, including the LGBTQIA+ community, through advocacy and by providing a safe and inclusive environment to receive care. This is why for four years in a row, Kennedy Community Health has been the only health care provider in Central Massachusetts to be named a Leader in LGBTQ+ Healthcare Equality by the Health Equality Index.
At Kennedy Community Health, understanding the unique challenges of all our patients is paramount to what we do so we are better able to equip them with the resources and services to help mitigate these effects. By recruiting and hiring staff from the communities we serve and who are reflective of the diversity of our patient population, we are not only better able to meet the needs of our patients but we are also better able to adapt, respond, and outreach to the community as a whole.
As we close out Pride Month, Kennedy Community Health pledges to continue to address the barriers that threaten to keep our LGBTQIA+ family from living their healthiest lives. And with that, I’d like to wish everyone Happy Pride.
Dear Colleagues and Friends:
Striving to achieve herd immunity, Kennedy Community Health has remained on the front lines helping our nation reach this goal.
When the vaccine first became available in late 2020, the Kennedy Community Health team went into action putting shots in arms. Vaccine clinics were set up for staff and patients were contacted directly to make appointments to receive the vaccine. Keeping in step with state guidelines, our patients had the opportunity to come to their health center home and receive the vaccine from those they trust most- their providers. With 99% of our staff vaccinated, the Kennedy Community Health team set an excellent example and many of our patients responded in kind by receiving the vaccine.
As we continue to vaccinate our patients, we have also moved beyond our health center doors to bring the vaccine to the community. In partnership with UMass Memorial Health, residents of Central Mass have access to the vaccine at a clinic in Marlborough. For those who struggle to get the vaccine due to work hours or a lack of transportation, our vaccination team is visiting area companies, vaccinating employees right at their place of work.
Throughout the course of the pandemic, the Kennedy Community Health team never wavered in its commitment to meet the demands of its patients and the community. The challenges and struggles of 2020 taught us much about our resiliency; they also helped us embrace new opportunities that can actually help improve how we work and live.
Recognizing that we could maintain several remote work settings, we decided to consolidate our administrative departments in one location, opening up opportunities to relocate some clinical services and increase medical exam rooms at our Tacoma Street health care facility.
Our new administrative office is located at 115 Northeast Cutoff in Worcester, still within the Great Brook Valley extended neighborhood. The site offers a smaller footprint and cost savings that can be used to increase patient services.
Expanding access to health care for our patients is always on our radar and is needed now more than ever. In the coming months I will share more information with you about future expansion plans throughout our entire service area. Until then, the work goes on to provide equity in health care delivery throughout the region. Thank you.
Stephen J. Kerrigan
President and CEO
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 disenfranchised and minority individuals and particularly during these unprecedented times. In fact, without our ability to reach those most in need, the situation could be even more dire. Given that statistics have demonstrated higher rates of death from COVID-19 in marginalized populations, community health centers are needed now more than ever to address the health inequities that continue to pervade our society.
Kennedy Community Health is committed to living out the legacy of our name sake by remaining true to our cause. As the pandemic continues on, we will remain steadfast in our commitment to providing care to anyone in need and pledge to work with community partners to change the paradigm so that health care is truly a right and not a privilege.
July marks the beginning of a new fiscal year at Edward M. Kennedy Community Health Center (Kennedy Community Health). Much like a new calendar year, at the beginning of a new fiscal year, we take time to reflect on the triumphs and tribulations of the previous year. This, of course, becomes the basis on which we plan for the year ahead. And while no one could have predicted the challenges and uncertainties of 2020, we embark on the new year with the confidence in the strength and agility of Kennedy Community Health to continue to meet this moment.
In spite of the many obstacles of the last 12 months, we began, and ended, FY2020 in strong standing. Confronted with a new reality and increased demands on the health care system, Kennedy Community Health implemented the necessary changes to ensure continuity of care for our patients and safety in our community. Our very model of care underwent significant changes in a short period of time; Kennedy Community Health was nimble and creative in finding alternative routes to providing care and maintained patient visits both in person and through telehealth, allowing us to stay on track with our pre-COVID budget and to limit our revenue loses. Unlike so many other organizations and businesses, this too meant that we were successfully able avoid any employee lay-offs and/or furloughs due to lost revenue.
Never losing sight of our mission or values, the Kennedy Community Health remained steadfast in its focus on providing high-quality and inclusive care to the most vulnerable in our communities. Inherit in this process, however, was the need to make infrastructure upgrades in order to support necessary changes. Kennedy Community Health aggressively and successfully sought funding while carefully investing in long-term solutions to enable the Health Center to sustain these changes. Thanks to the dedication of our staff, the generosity of local and national foundations and the stable foundation on which we entered this crisis, Kennedy Community Health has emerged stronger and better able to tackle future crises.
As we look toward FY2021, we are sure to face obstacles, those both foreseen and unknown. However, as the last 12 months have taught us, as a leader in community-based care, Kennedy Community Health is unwavering in its commitment to “help people live healthier lives,” regardless of any challenges we encounter and is well-positioned to meet the ever-changing needs of the community we serve.
Community Health was made for moments like these and Kennedy Community Health is leading the way as we always have.
As you know, Kennedy Community Health has remained open since the pandemic began, with our staff on the front lines fighting the spread of COVID-19. The phased reopening of our Commonwealth provides an opportunity for us to enhance our current operations as we continue to address patient needs. Our team has done an exceptional job developing new care pathways and remote working conditions to keep both staff and patients safe. I have no doubt that our spirit of excellence will continue to shine as we slowly reintroduce services and bring more patients on site.
The approach we are taking provides a framework for phasing in services and onsite appointments. It supports a slow reentry to a more typical clinical operation while we closely monitor the status of COVID-19 in our community. It includes adding more onsite primary care and dental visits, while the behavioral health team continues with its successful telehealth program. Testing for the virus is increasing at all of our health center sites and additional tents have been installed so patients can receive needed vaccines without having to come inside the facility.
Despite the challenges of fighting the pandemic, however, Kennedy Community Health has remained fiscally strong, positioning our organization for long term sustainability. With new care pathways created to deliver patient care, prudent management of our revenue stream, and careful monitoring of the outstanding grant support, Kennedy Community Health has been able to move through the pandemic without any furloughs or layoffs.
This strong position has provided a framework for a growth trajectory that will support increased access to care and allow Kennedy Community Health to continue its leadership role in community-based health care in Central Mass and MetroWest.
As a leader in the communities we serve, Kennedy Community Health will also continue to speak out against racial injustice and the inequities that are pervasive in our society. Born out of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, community health centers have fought for health equity for over 54 years. Kennedy Community Health will honor this tradition by remaining steadfast in our efforts to fight for human rights. While we are hopeful for our future, we will never wain in our support of and fight for social justice. Thank you.
The month of April has indeed been challenging for all of us as we work together to fight the global pandemic. Never before has Kennedy Community Health’s mission been so important. As a premiere health care provider for vulnerable and disenfranchised populations, our services are needed now more than ever.
In response to the pandemic, the spirit of excellence at Kennedy Community Health has shined brighter than ever before. Clinical and operations teams have created new care pathways to keep both our patients and staff safe while minimizing the spread of COVID-19. Telehealth quickly became a viable option to offer patients a way to keep in touch with providers without having to come to one of our health care sties. However, with many of our patients still requiring onsite care and services, members of our clinical team are available everyday to meet their needs. Tents in our parking lots provide opportunities to screen patients, and test if needed, before they enter the facility; and staff are required to wear masks at all times.
During this time of change, we have also experienced a tremendous outpouring of support from the communities we serve. Many local and regional foundations have reached out with special grant opportunities to assist us in purchasing personal protective equipment, set up screening and testing areas, and purchase the tools needed to conduct telehealth appointments. For this support, we are deeply grateful.
We have also received numerous donations of cloth masks from individuals, small businesses and community groups. I cannot thank these gracious volunteers enough for thinking of our staff and the sacrifices they are making everyday.
Finally, I want to give a shout-out to our elected and appointed officials, who have been advocating tirelessly on our behalf, insuring that federal COVID-19 relief funds include community health centers. With the loss of revenue from discontinued services and other impacts of the virus, these funds are critical to our overall sustainability.
Thank you all again for your support of Kennedy Community Health as we continue our fight against COVID-19, and please remember us today on Giving Tuesday.
As the coronavirus/COVID-19 situation continues to evolve, we are faced with great uncertainties. It is more important now than ever to come together as a community to protect the most vulnerable among us. Guided by our mission to “help people live healthier lives,” Kennedy Community Health is on the frontlines of these great efforts. The “spirit of excellence” is still strong and we are committed to adapting to continue to provide the comprehensive and compassionate care that you have come to expect of us. We continue to monitor and respond to the situation at hand, and will be providing on-going updates on our website and social media to keep you informed of the changes within the Health Center and the local resources available to help you weather this storm.
To date, we have set up screening tents at our Health Center sites to screen patients and prevent the spread within our facilities. With the virus already in our communities, these screening have already been successful in protecting patients and staff from community spread. Our staff is working tirelessly to open new and safer paths to care, including the introduction of tele-health appointments in many departments to continue to address our most vulnerable patients’ needs. Our back office operations have also shifted to allow many non-clinical staff to work remotely.
However necessary, these changes are not without their consequences. By shifting our team’s efforts to address the biggest threat to the health of our community, non-emergent patient appointments must be canceled in order to free up capacity and resources needed to fight this battle. As a result, Kennedy Community Health is facing great losses in critical revenue generated by patient appointments. And we are not alone; community health centers across the country are facing serious financial strains caused by shrinking revenues and increasing demands.
We need your help.
We are calling on our Members of Congress to move to pass long-term funding to support community health centers; legislation passed last fall provided short-term funding that will expire in May 2020. This funding is inadequate to address the crisis at hand. Latest projections indicate that we are facing up to 18 more months of the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic, while also threatening increasing rates of unemployment and uninsurance across the country. We need community health centers now more than ever. We urge Congress to pass long-term funding to equip community health centers with the resources we need to continue to fill this vital role in our communities.
Every dollar counts in this difficult time. If you would like to contribute to the #coronavirus response efforts at Kennedy Community Health, please consider donating through our Benevity page to double your impact. Benevity will match donations up to $300,000: https://mygoodness.benevity.org/community/cause/840-042513817
Thank you and stay well,
In keeping with our mission to ‘help people live healthier lives,’ the Edward M. Kennedy Community Health Center has made the difficult decision to postpone our Roaring ‘20s Costume Party, which was set to take place on Saturday, March 28, 2020. Given the evolving situation with the coronavirus, we have decided that it is in the best interest of public health to reschedule the event to mitigate any potential health risks for our guests and our community.
Saturday, June 13, 2020 is the tentative new date for this event. The current situation will continue to be monitored and updates about the event will be provided.
In the meantime, I hope that you are taking measures to keep yourself and your family healthy. At Kennedy Community Health, clinical and operational teams are working around the clock to insure protocols and procedures are in place to protect both our patients and staff. We are also working closely with other community organizations to identify ways to contain this virus.
If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me directly.
Thank you for your support and I look forward to seeing you at the Costume Party in June.
President and CEO
On January 28th, I had the opportunity to participate in the hearing held by the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Health Care Financing. The purpose of this hearing was for committee members to listen to testimony related to the legislation that was filed to address the myriad challenges we’re facing in our current health care structure.
Governor Charlie Baker and Secretary of Health and Human Services, Mary Lou Sudders testified that the legislation addresses “investing in value, with the goal of improving outcomes for patients, increasing access to care, and bringing down costs.” Both officials discussed the critical need for reform: “The legislation we’ve proposed includes big, not marginal reforms in five key areas: prioritizing investments in primary care behavioral health, improving access to high quality coordinated care, supporting community health care providers including community hospitals and community health centers, managing health care costs and increasing affordability and promoting insurance market reforms.”
Our colleagues at the Mass League of Community Health Centers were also present at the hearing. They stressed the importance of passing the legislation to secure the sustainability of our delivery model. Michael Curry, Deputy CEO and General Council represented us well when he shared: “It has been demonstrated time and time again through study after study, it is high value and high impact, achieving that elusive goal of better care at lower costs, but we face both immediate and deep structural challenges to our viability. The effort in this bill to initiate a shift towards increased investment in primary care and behavioral health is vital.”
As the largest primary care practice in this state, serving one out of every eight residents, community health centers are at the core of quality care and access. Without FQHCs, our health care delivery system would crumble.
So if the opportunity presents itself, I hope that you will join us in letting your state senators and representatives know how important this legislation is to our future.
President and CEO
- Sharing our posts and fundraisers allows us to broadcast our message and mission more broadly.
- Inviting your network to like our page or join our fundraiser helps to increase the size of our audience.
- Creating your own fundraiser in benefit of the Health Center helps us to increase our efforts towards our goal of raising $5,000
- Donating any amount you can to our fundraiser helps to inch us closer to our goal.
President and CEO
In mid-October, the Baker administration introduced legislation that will continue to reform health care delivery in Massachusetts. The legislation promises to open up access to needed primary care and behavioral health services, as well as hold pharmaceutical companies accountable for rising health care costs. Insurance programs will also be examined through a special commission set up by the Governor.
Massachusetts has always been on the forefront of innovation and change related to the delivery of health care, and it is reassuring to see us continuing in this tradition.
As a health care leader, I am pleased to see that this new legislation has been proposed; as the President and CEO of a premier health center, both regionally and nationally, I can’t help but point out that this new plan must include opportunities to address the financial constraints facing the largest primary care practice in the Commonwealth: Community Health Centers.
Often thought of as a third tier medical delivery system, community health centers have risen beyond their initial grass roots status to become a place of choice, where about one out of every seven individuals in Massachusetts comes to receive care. Right now community health centers in the state care for more than one million people.
Any and all health care reform must address the reimbursement system for community health centers. The current structure leaves most of us struggling to recruit staff, purchase the latest equipment and remain current with technology changes. The residents of the Commonwealth who choose to receive care at a community health center have the same rights to quality care delivery as those who visit large, private and hospital-based practices.
Kennedy CHC is fortunate in that our legislative delegation in both Central Massachusetts and MetroWest recognize the value we bring to our community and understand our plight. We thank them for their continual efforts to fight for access to health care for everyone.
President and CEO
On October 2, 2019, I will begin my fourth month as President and CEO of Kennedy CHC. Although I was well aware of the mission and good works of community health centers across our nation, I never realized the full scope of their impact until I joined the Kennedy CHC team.
For the past three months, I have had the opportunity to meet with leaders in the community health center movement locally and around the country. Through programs hosted by the Mass League of Community Health Centers and the National Association of Community Health Centers, I have learned more extensively about the challenges facing our long term sustainability.
Each year we have to advocate in Washington, DC to insure community health centers receive level funding at best despite the fact that we serve over 29 million people a year in more than 11,000 rural and urban communities across the U.S.
In Massachusetts alone, over one-million people received care at a community health center in 2017.
Even more amazing is that through an economic lens, Massachusetts’ community health centers provide an economic impact of over $2.6 billion, supporting over 18,000 direct and indirect jobs (FTEs) throughout the Commonwealth.
With statistics like these, I struggle to understand why community-based health care continues to lag behind the rest of our medical delivery system in regard to reimbursement rates from private and public insurers, and that as an industry we are not fully recognized for the value we bring to the communities we serve.
If we really believe in health care as a right and not a privilege, then we all need to step up and advocate for a proven model that makes health care affordable and accessible to everyone. I hope we can continue to count on you to support our mission and find ways to insure our sustainability for years to come.
President and CEO
President and CEO