It’s arguably the biggest news to hit this little corner of Boston in decades. It was announced last week that President Barack Obama has chosen the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center (EBNHC) as the recipient of $12 million in stimulus money to build a brand new, state-of-the-art facility in Maverick Square.
The news has swept through the community like a firestorm and at the EBNHC offices last week President Jack Cradock was on cloud nine.
“We are delighted, excited, overjoyed,” said Cradock. “For the last two weeks we were actually banking on not getting any stimulus money and exploring alternatives to the Maverick Square project.”
Cradock and EBNHC’s Manny Lopes were then invited down to Washington D.C. last Monday. It was obvious that something big was about to happen but neither Cradock nor Lopes expected how big it would be.
“This was the last round of federal stimulus money,” said Cradock. “And out of 600 application only 85 projects were chosen and out of those 85 projects the Health Center received the most money.”
Cradock said the elation among the EBNHC staff is because the health center has now been recognized, by the President of the United States, as a top notch facility.
“It’s a bit overwhelming,” said Cradock who attended the Presidential signing of the $600 million in stimulus money package for health centers. “we always knew we were one of the best…this just gives credence to our claim.”
The $12 million will be used for a $20 million project to place a 45,000 square foot, four story professional building in the Square. The building will supplement the Health Center’s Gove Street operation and add more than 30 exam rooms, eye and dental offices, family medicine and administrative offices. The building exterior will mimic the architecture of the famed Maverick House that once stood on the site.
“This building will represent 80,000 more visits per year for the Health Center or a 20 percent increase,” said Cradock. “It will also create 175 construction jobs for two years and 50 permanent jobs in the health care industry.”
To get the money into East Boston, there was some heavily lobbying from the Health Center to Senator Anthony Petruccelli who worked with Governor Deval Patrick, a friend of President Obama, and Congressman Michael Capuano. While the EBNHC’s proposal was chosen on merit and was considered one of the best among the field of proposals, the little political push didn’t hurt.
“I was pleasantly surprised by last week’s news about the funding being awarded to the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center,” said Petruccelli. “ The competition for these grants was very strong, but Governor Patrick and Congressman Michael Capuano really came through for East Boston. The proposed project is something new to that square and should prove to be a wise use of federal stimulus money.”
Patrick called it wonderful news for the EBNHC and the patients and community it serves.
“I am deeply grateful to the Obama Administration and our partners in the Congressional delegation for recognizing the integral role the center plays in our health care delivery system and the quality, affordable care it provides to some of our most vulnerable residents,” said Patrick. “These funds will support the construction of a state-of-the-art facility that promises to give the local economy a boost, create jobs for today and tomorrow and support the center’s vital mission of delivering first rate health services to the community.”
President Obama said two causes that all Americans can get behind are initiatives to improve our health care system and create jobs in a struggling economy.
“Starting today, we’re making a total of $88 million in funding available for health centers to adopt new health information technology systems to manage their administrative and financial matters and transfer old paper files to electronic medical records,” said Obama as he signed the fiscal package. “These investments won’t just increase efficiency and lower costs, they’ll improve the quality of care as well — preventing countless medical errors, and allowing providers to spend less time with paperwork and more time with patients.”