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Allston community health center receives $8 million tax credit

Residents of Allston are delighted by a new development by the Joseph M. Smith Community Health Center, which is significantly increasing the size of its facility, enabling it to better achieve its purpose of providing care to low-income patients.

The JMSCHC received an $8 million tax credit from MassDevelopment in order to build the new 48,000-square-foot health center in Allston. The building will nearly double JMSCHC’s current patient capacity of 6,000 patients annually to about 11,500. It will also be combining the three current separate facilities in Allston and Brighton, the administrative offices and the primary health center, into one building, according to the Wednesday press release.

Kelsey Abbruzzese, communications director at MassDevelopment, said JMSCHC expects to add 75 jobs to facilitate its expansion and predicts the project will create 90 construction jobs.

“The New Markets Tax Credit program provides low-cost financing to businesses and nonprofits in eligible census tracts,” she said in the Wednesday release. “Leveraging this financing for JMSCHC creates jobs in Boston and expands access to high-quality, low-cost health care, an important public purpose.”

Marty Jones, president and CEO of MassDevelopment, said this expansion is necessary for JMSCHC to reach the needs of the community and is happy to be able to provide them with the funding.

“MassDevelopment has used New Markets Tax Credits to deliver capital where it is most needed, and we’re pleased to provide this innovative financing to the Joseph M. Smith Community Health Center,” he said in the Wednesday release. “Residents of the Commonwealth need high-quality, low-cost health care, and this expansion will help JMSCHC reach even more individuals and families in need.”

Since JMSCHC opened its doors in 1974, the clinic has expanded from a simple two-room clinic to four clinic sites in Allston, Brighton and Waltham. Their mission is to improve the overall health of the community by providing a range of services including medical, pharmaceutical, vision and mental health assistance.

“The new building will be the next generational home for the Health Center,” said Elizabeth Browne, executive director at JMSCHC, in the Wednesday press release. “[It will also be] a Patient Centered Medical Home for thousands more in need of high quality, cost-effective care.”

Elva Aguirre, of Brighton, and a 37-year-old patient of JMSCHC, said the health center is in need of expansion because it is always busy. Although she said she has never had to wait long to see a doctor, dental appointments can take up to six months.

“It’s too small inside,” she said. “When you have a lot of people, and there is a line, you can’t fit in there. When you ask why you have to wait so long, they say they have too many patients. They’re busy. That’s a problem.”

Aguirre also said their business could possibly put one’s health and life at risk, making a bigger and more efficient facility vital.

“When I had an emergency, I had pain, I went one day, and they told me between 1 p.m. and 8 p.m. — for an emergency,” she said. “When you get there, they don’t see you probably because they have so many people.”

Other residents of Allston said the development of a bigger and more efficient health care center would lift up the neighborhood in a variety of ways.

“This will make the community more self-reliable and might make people more apt to live there,” said David Chu, 32, of Allston. “Creating more jobs, no matter the number, is always helpful to a neighborhood.”

Tony Johnston, 51, of Allston, said a community as big as Allston-Brighton needs a reliable health center that can be trusted in dire situations.

“I applaud them for providing health care to a mostly low-income community, but that doesn’t mean that the health care should be underfunded because it’s inexpensive,” he said. “The facility definitely needs to be trustworthy when it comes to emergency cases, and this will hopefully make that situation better.”

Liz Rodriguez, 49, of Allston, said a reliable health center is necessary, but also understand why such a facility would have problems providing for their patients.

“Investments from corporations are great,” she said. “But people need to realize that money has to come in from somewhere, and it can’t all be from corporations. It will always be a struggle providing inexpensive services to low-income communities.”

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