Kennedy Community Health to build new Milford center three times size of current one

Will be built across the street from existing facility

MILFORD — After operating a small health care center on Cape Road for the past seven years, the Edward M. Kennedy Community Health Center plans to increase its reach by building a bigger office across the street. 

The Kennedy Health Center, which was founded in a Worcester housing project in 1972, opened its Milford office at 42 Cape Road to increase access to primary care services and to lessen the pressure put on Milford Regional Medical Center’s emergency room. 

The 5,000-square-foot health center in the Cape Road Plaza provides Milford residents with primary and preventative medical care, access to mental health professionals, case management, care coordination, lab service and help with obtaining benefits. 

Sabrina Carneiro, a nurse, and medical assistant Tonia Dansereau work in the medical assistant station at the Edward M. Kennedy Community Health Center in Milford, Oct. 15, 2021. The center plans to increase its services by building a newer, bigger facility directly across the street.

“We’ve been in Milford for quite some time with a good number of patients,” said Steve Kerrigan, president and CEO of Kennedy Community Health. “When I took this role two years ago, it became very clear that there was a need in the community for more primary care services but the space we’re currently operating within now won’t allow for an expansion.” 

About two years ago, the company began looking for a new space to open a Milford center and decided earlier this year on a piece of land directly across the street from its current building.  

The new office — 41 Cape Road — is expected to be three times larger than its current center, said Kerrigan, or about 15,000 square feet. 

The company is in the process of finalizing designs for the buildout and estimates the cost to build and equip the inside of the new building to be around $4.5 million. 

Milford isn’t the only place where Kennedy Health is expanding. This past summer, it announced a $6.5 million investment in a new, 30,000-square-foot office on Lincoln Street in Worcester.

A sign for the current Edward M. Kennedy Community Health Center at 42 Cape Road in Milford with a foundation already under construction for a new facility across the street at 41 Cape Road, Oct. 15, 2021.

The new Milford center will be built on an undeveloped plot of land next to a Milford Regional Urgent Care center. Not only will it allow the company to expand its primary care services, but to add on-site dental and behavioral practices, an optometrist and a pharmacy, according to Kerrigan. 

The center plans to serve thousands more patients for primary care, said Kerrigan, adding that including dental care is critically important to make it more accessible for those in the area. The new pharmacy program will allow patients to access low-cost prescription drugs closer to home, as some patients still travel as far as Framingham to get medications filled, said Kerrigan.  

The new center is slated to open a year from now, said Kerrigan, which will help it mark its 50th anniversary. 

“Next year will be a big year for us,” he said. 

Medical assistant Melissa Taranto cleans an exam room at the Edward M. Kennedy Community Health Center in Milford, Oct. 15, 2021.

Site work has already begun to prepare for construction, said Kerrigan. While Kennedy Health will build the new structure, it will lease from a landlord — the same landlord with whom it has a lease at Cape Road Plaza.  

“This is a site that’s been small but mighty, and they’ve done incredible work there,” Kerrigan said of Kennedy Health’s current location.  

There are 37 staff members employed at the Milford health center, serving 4,639 patients totaling 13,555 visits during fiscal 2020, said Bridget Perry, a communications representative for Kennedy Health.

In Massachusetts, more than 1 million residents rely on community health centers as their primary care provider, according to the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts. Kennedy Community Health Center is one of 52 federally qualified community health centers in the state. 

Medical assistant Melissa Taranto cleans an exam room at the Edward M. Kennedy Community Health Center in Milford, Oct. 15, 2021. The center plans to increase its services by building a newer, bigger center directly across the street.

“Especially during the pandemic, there was a lot of difficulties in the health care space and challenges with health care delivery services and we were no different than that,” said Kerrigan.  

In nearly 50 years of operation, Kennedy Health — originally founded as Great Brook Valley Health Center Inc. — expanded its services form Worcester to Framingham and Milford. It has seven school-based health center sites. 

Kennedy Health’s Milford office, the first community health center in town, was built with funding from both the MetroWest Health Foundation and The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts. 

Lauren Young writes about business and pop culture. Reach her at 774-804-1499 or Follow her on Twitter @laurenwhy__.