A Memo from the   President & CEO
September 21st, 2017

The Opioid Abuse Crisis

Opioid abuse is creating one of the largest public health crises in the nation's history affecting virtually every community. And while addiction knows no boundaries, unequal access to treatment creates real disparities in disease outcomes among groups who struggle to obtain basic health care. Whittier's Behavioral Health Department is committed to eliminating those disparities. We offer individual and group therapy, walk-in services, and medication assisted treatment (Suboxone and the Vivitrol injection) for patients who need this support to achieve and maintain sobriety.

WSHC is launching a campaign to address high rates of opioid abuse in our community on Wednesday, October 18th with a patient/family/provider lunch from 12:00 to 1:30 p.m. We will convene stakeholders including elected officials, HRSA representatives, patients and community to develop strategies to combat this public health emergency.

Trauma  Center  Responds  to A Violent Summer:

Every summer brings an uptick in violence, but the summer of 2017 was an especially violent one. Between Memorial Day and mid-July, lethal and non-lethal shootings were up about 30% over the same period the previous year.
Community violence disproportionately impacts the minority majority neighborhoods we serve. Half of all violent crimes are concentrated in the neighborhoods of Roxbury/Mission Hill (20%), Dorchester (16%), and Mattapan/North Dorchester (14%).

Last spring, Mayor Walsh and the Boston Public Health Commission launched a Neighborhood Trauma Team Program (NTT) creating five neighborhood response and recovery teams to offer immediate support to residents and ongoing evidence-based trauma treatment. Part of the Roxbury team, Whittier's Behavioral Health staff partner with Madison Park Development Corporation to provide individual and family crisis services, short-term case management, coping groups, and ongoing trauma recovery. We also promote community awareness of the effects of trauma through presentations and resource distribution at community meetings.

Food  Pantry Planning: 

Our patient, Ms. Bonita Cuff was recently interviewed for an article in The Boston Herald: "Food Budget Falls Short." Ms. Cuff stated that she sometimes goes without eating and worries about finding food for her family. Unfortunately, Ms. Cuff is not alone. More than half of our patients struggle with food insecurity due to poverty and lack of access to healthy, fresh food in the urban core neighborhoods we serve which are often characterized as "Food Deserts."

Adults struggling with hunger have higher risks for developing chronic diseases like obesity, hypertension and diabetes. Children living in food insecure households are sick more often, recover from illnesses more slowly and are hospitalized more frequently according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Whittier partners with a number of organizations to make food available to patients at their visits: Fair Foods, Trustees Mobile Farmers Market and Fresh Truck. We distributed more than one thousand pounds of fresh produce last year from those organizations and with funds from Partners Community Health provided 160 families with Thanksgiving turkeys. In addition, Whittier's Community Garden produced more than four hundred pounds of vegetables.

In response to the ongoing problem of food insecurity and the need for a more comprehensive solution, we are seeking funding for our Food Access Project. We will partner with Greater Boston Food Bank to set up an on-site emergency food pantry. Patients who screen positive for food insecurity at an appointment with our providers would have immediate access to healthy foods. The project also entails construction of a roof-top community garden that will increase our capacity to grow produce and conduct patient nutrition education.

Family Resource Center:

WSHC is partnering with The Department of Children and Families (DCF) and the Home for Little Wanderers to establish an on-site Family Resource Center for Boston families in crisis. More than half of our children are DCF-involved and live in crisis. The Family Resource Center and our Behavioral Health team will work to stabilize families so that these children can be healthy and reach their full potential.

Uniform DataSystem (UDS) Report:

Community Health Centers (CHCs) serve more than 25 million patients in nearly 10,000 communities in every state and U.S. Territory. Approximately 1 in 13 people in the United States receive care at a CHC. Each year, Health Centers report to Congress on their performance and the health of their communities using measures defined in the Uniform Data System (UDS).

Whittier provides everyone in the communities we serve with high-quality, comprehensive, culturally competent care -- regardless of insurance or immigration status. This is more important than ever, given the fact that 2016 UDS data demonstrate that:
  • Approximately 36% of our adult patients are uninsured and 40% of our pediatric patients lack insurance due to a parent's immigration status.
  • 93.72% of patients are part of an ethnic or racial minority, predominately African American (45%) and Latino (46%) and almost half are best served in a language other than English;
  • 91% of Whittier's patients live at or below 200% of the poverty level and almost all live in public housing (81%);
  • 70% of adult patients have been diagnosed with diabetes, hypertension, cancer, asthma, obesity, depression, or HIV; 27% have been diagnosed with two or more of these conditions;
  • 50% of our pediatric patients are obese with a BMI in the 85th percentile or above.
Update  on Quincy Commons Satellite Site:

Our second location, WSHC @Quincy Commons, which opened last spring is growing. It offers a full-service pharmacy, primary and urgent care, podiatry, WIC program access, laboratory services, and nutrition counseling.  Because we continue to see new HIV cases and high rates of Hepatitis C, we have expanded our community outreach in this area of Roxbury and North Dorchester.

Back-To-School BBQ:

WSHC's annual Back to School BBQ on August 25th was a huge success and got our young people excited about going back to school! More than 755 people attended, including 520 students who received much needed backpacks and school supplies. Our friends from the Museum of Fine Arts kept everyone entertained with craft projects and there were also games, bouncy houses, dancing, a talent show, and lots of great food. Our staff thought the best part of the day was the great smiles on our families' faces, especially when ELMO and Blue arrived.

We are grateful to all of our community partners: the MFA, The Boston Police 
Department, and especially General Electric and Boston Medical Center who co-sponsored this event with us. We wish all of our young people a healthy, successful year!

Upcoming  events:
  • October 19, 2017 - National Hispanic Heritage Month celebration from 12:00-2:00 p.m. at Whittier Street Health Center.
  • December 1, 2017 -- World AIDS Day
  • December 12, 2017 -- Women For Whittier Holiday Tea at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel from 4:30- 6:30 p.m.
  • April 24, 2018 - The Roast, our signature event. This year we will honor Sam Kennedy, President & CEO of the Boston Red Sox at the Fairmont Copley Hotel from 5:30 - 9:00 p.m. 
Wishing you good health!
Frederica M. Williams
President and CEO