From the Desk of Stephen J. Kerrigan

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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.

Thank you.

Steve Kerrigan

 

 

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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.

Thank you.

Steve Kerrigan

 

 

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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.

Steve Kerrigan

 

 

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Dear Colleagues:

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.

Sincerely.

Steve Kerrigan

 

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Dear Colleagues:

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.

Stay well.

Steve Kerrigan

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Dear Colleagues:

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.

Stay well.

Steve Kerrigan

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Dear Colleagues:

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.

Stay well.

Steve Kerrigan

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Dear Colleagues:

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.

Stay well.

Steve Kerrigan

President and CEO
 
 
 
 
 

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Dear Colleagues:

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,

Steve Kerrigan

President and CEO
 
 
 
 
 

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Dear Colleagues:

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.

Sincerely,
 
Steve Kerrigan
President and CEO
 
 
 
 
 

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Dear Colleagues:

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.

Thank you so much for your support.
 
Sincerely,
 
Steve Kerrigan
President and CEO
 
 
 
 
 

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Giving Tuesday, the global day of caring, is celebrated each year the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. This special day provides an opportunity for all of us to support the work of non-profits all over the country. And as one of the largest community health centers serving the most vulnerable in our community, supporting the Edward M. Kennedy Community Health Center (Kennedy Community Health) on Giving Tuesday will go a long way in helping us to help people live healthier lives.
 
This Giving Tuesday, we’re asking for your support as we raise much-needed funds for our school-based health centers (SBHCs). Kennedy Community Health currently operates six SBHCs in Worcester and Framingham where our clinicians provide access to vital health services to students in a place where they spend most of their day: at school. Your support on this Giving Tuesday will help with everything from replacing worn-out waiting room furniture at these sites to providing the on-going availability of youth health resources, like health education materials and providing on-site flu shots.
 
Supporting Kennedy Community Health on Giving Tuesday can be done in any number of ways:
  • 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. 
As an added bonus, Facebook is matching the first $7 million in donations made through their site which can double your donation.
 
Any support you’re willing and able to contribute on this Giving Tuesday is deeply appreciated! Please follow our progress by visiting our main campaign page on GiveLively, or check us out on Facebook and follow along on Instagram and Twitter.
 
Thank you so much for your support.
 
Sincerely,
 
Steve Kerrigan
President and CEO
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Dear Colleagues:

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.

Thank you.

Steve Kerrigan
President and CEO

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Dear Colleagues:

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.

Thank you.

Steve Kerrigan
President and CEO

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Dear Colleagues:
 
Welcome to the first edition of Health Care Leadership in Action. As the new President and CEO of the Edward M. Kennedy Community Health Center, I plan to use this venue to keep you informed of the issues related to health care, including sharing opportunities for us to work together to insure access to health care for all.
 
Having worked for the father of community health centers, our late Senator, Ted Kennedy, I am more than familiar with the plight of underserved populations. Considered a right and not a privilege, our fight to insure quality, accessible and affordable health care must remain on the forefront of local, regional and national agendas.
 
My vision for the next year is to work with our colleagues across the Commonwealth and our nation to insure that policies and programs are implemented to guarantee the sustainability of community health centers going forward. With solid and strong financial support, we can work together to grow our community health centers locally so that we have the staff, the services and the programs necessary to achieve our mission of helping ALL people live healthier lives.
Thank you and I look forward to working with you.
 
Steve Kerrigan
President and CEO

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