Health Justice for Boston ~ Number 10. October 2014

Community Meeting

Wednesday, October 22, 2014 @ 7:00 PM
Higher Ground, 384 Warren Street, Third Floor
at Martin Luther King Boulevard, Roxbury
MBTA Bus Routes #23 & 28
Wheelchair Accessible ~ Light Refreshments

Keeping Vital Health Services Where Needed     

Meeting at Higher Ground on Warren Street in September, we reviewed plans for the nearby site of RoxComp Community Health Center, closed in April 2013. A court-appointed Receiver aims to sell the real estate so as to pay unpaid workers and creditors. Higher Ground’s Director, Mossik Hacobian, reported that over 17 months his agency and others organized five public meetings where patients were directed to other care, and the Receiver got community input and explained the search for a buyer.

When the Receiver announces a buyer, Higher Ground will alert the community. That’s a crucial time, we agreed, to urge using part of RoxComp’s facility for services accessible to low-income residents. Both bidders still in negotiations plan to quickly re-use the site - but may not need the whole building. One proposes a housing developer’s office. The other, a private firm, proposes outpatient medical services, but it is not yet clear if those would be affordable or target local needs.

RoxComp’s federal “330” grant is no longer available to support community health center (CHC) services on Warren Street, so Dudley-area residents must now travel much farther for CHC care. Hacobian told us that, to help families deal with the distance, Whittier Street Health Center has offered to pick up children who get sick at three local schools.

An alternative approach - in-school health services - provides readily accessible care where children spend their days. For over twenty years, such centers have been run by hospitals, CHCs, the Boston Public Health Commission and others. But many in Massachusetts are struggling or closing, reported Elmer Freeman, president of the Massachusetts Association for School-Based Health Care. Because today’s health financing is tied to individual patients, school-based centers are hard to sustain unless they can bill insurers for the services they provide.

Boston last month lost two more health care resources - Pathways to Wellness and for-profit Radius/Jewish Memorial Hospital, a long-term acute facility for patients too complex for nursing homes. In future meetings, we can discuss strategies such as public assessment of which facilities are essential and which are in financial danger, legal tools for their stabilization, including grants to help sustain needed, efficient services - plus the risky growth of for-profit ownership in Massachusetts health care. - Debbie Socolar

Shrinking Care

As Debbie Socolar outlined above, access to care in Boston continues to shrink, with the closures of RoxComp, Pathways to Wellness and Radius, and threats to school-based clinics. Further closures and cutbacks loom as marketplace medicine continues to wreak havoc. Rich institutions sit on billions while neighborhood options disappear. It's time to unite in the fight for healthcare justice in Boston and everywhere. The way we do health care here cries out for fundamental change. For a just healthcare system embedded in a just society! - Sandy Eaton

Affordable Alternative Medicine?

Over the summer, we ran a series of articles concerning the availability in Roxbury of affordable alternative medicine. When the New England School of Acupuncture withdrew its student intern clinic under the expert supervision of Richard Mandell, Anne Drogin and CJ Allen, several practitioners dedicated to continuing these health benefits began the clinics at RoxComp and at Pathways to Wellness, which was then housed at the South End Community Health Center. The clinic at RoxComp was clean and well-lighted, adjacent to pediatrics. When Pathways to Wellness moved from SECHC up the street to its own space, it collapsed financially, being overextended - this after a twenty-five year history of providing and subsidizing low cost alternative medicine to the Roxbury/South End/Dorchester area - the heart of the Black and Latino community. Community health centers have played a vital role in providing alternative medicine at or below cost. - Quentin Davis

Jewish Memorial Hospital: Birthplace of Private Sector Health Workers’ Collective Bargaining

The old Jewish Memorial Hospital in Roxbury, now a Radius facility being shut down, played an historic role in the winning of collective bargaining rights for healthcare workers in Massachusetts. Like agricultural and domestic workers, healthcare workers were excluded from coverage by the 1935 Wagner Act, the original National Labor Relations Act. Rights were denied workers of color, as well as white workers, to keep the Dixiecrats in the New Deal coalition. It was not until 1975 that the NLRA was amended to cover healthcare workers. In the mid-sixties, the Black workers at Jewish Memorial Hospital extracted union recognition from management through mass direct action, forcing the state's public sector collective bargaining law to be extended to cover private-sector healthcare workers until such time as the NLRA could catch up. They, plus workers at four Roxbury nursing homes, were consolidated into the Retail, Wholesale & Department Store Workers Union, the parent organization of Local 1199 in New York. At the same time, the door was opened for nurses and other workers to begin the march toward unionization. We owe those courageous Black workers so much! - Sandy Eaton

Ballot Fight for Earned Sick Time Advances

You will make a big difference in just a couple of hours telling voters about Massachusetts Ballot Question #4 on earned sick time. Voter info and turnout efforts are crucial now and through November 4th! Background information on this public health and healthcare access issue is at You can use that website's Events tab or this link to sign up for phone banks or canvassing. Even easier … call from home with your own phone and computer - midday, late afternoon or evening any Monday, Wednesday or Thursday. There's a short training conference call at 3:45 on those days (or email the campaign to arrange a time). Please sign up here to use the easy HubDialer system to make those calls from home or go to - Debbie Socolar

Biolab Fight Update

Mayor Marty Walsh revealed his support for the BU Level 4 Biolab to Emily Rooney and her WGBH audience on October 6th, stating: “I know the neighborhood is concerned about the lab, but when you think about Ebola, it’s important for us to have research on it to see how we can come up with some cures. … I know people will watch tonight and say, 'You shouldn’t be for it,' but we have to do studying on it, and we have to make sure we look for a cure and a treatment.” Next month, we’ll discuss Ebola, research and the response of the Coalition to Stop the BU Bioterror Lab. - Sandy Eaton

Tell Brigham & Women’s Your Priorities

People who live, work, or go to school in Roxbury, Mission Hill, Jamaica Plain, Dorchester and Mattapan have been invited to comment on community health needs and priorities in an on-line game. Brigham & Women's Hospital says that this input will help guide the hospital's distribution of about $6.9 million (over several years) for programs to promote health in those communities. Partners is seeking state approval for a $350 million new B&W building and renovated NICU. To express your views through this game, which is online until October 19th, go to: What Matters for Health.

West Roxbury Voters - 10th Suffolk State Rep District
Support raising the minimum wage to $15/hour.
Vote yes on Question 5!

What is Healthcare Justice?

  • Access: Can you get the care you need?
  • Affordability: Will you go bankrupt if you do?
  • Quality: Will you survive your encounter?
  • Equality: Do you meet special barriers to care?


For more information on campaigns to make health care a right, not a commodity:

Healthcare NOW!
Labor Campaign for Single Payer

For help navigating the current system:

Boston Mayor’s HealthLine @ 617-534-5050

Health Care For All - Massachusetts
Consumer Health HelpLine @ 800-272-4232

Massachusetts Health Connector
Customer Support @ 877-623-6765

Sponsor: Boston Ad Hoc Committee for Healthcare Justice

For more information, contact:

Quentin Davis @ 617-553-2949 or
Sandy Eaton @ 617-510-6496 or

Health Justice for Boston is archived on Seachange Bulletin.
Health Justice for Boston is now on Facebook!