Expanded Community Health Center location opens in Orange

  • Congressman Jim McGovern speaks to those gathered for the Community Health Center of Franklin County’s grand opening celebration on Wednesday morning at 119 New Athol Road in Orange. In the background is CEO Dr. Allison van der Velden. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Dr. Stephen Segatore gives a tour of the newly renovated building at the grand opening of the Community Health Center of Franklin County in Orange on Wednesday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • The Community Health Center of Franklin County held its grand opening celebration on Wednesday morning at 119 New Athol Road in Orange. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Congressman Jim McGovern speaks to those gathered for the Community Health Center of Franklin County’s grand opening celebration on Wednesday morning at 119 New Athol Road in Orange. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Congressman Jim McGovern speaks with the former CEO Edward Sayer and current CEO Dr. Allison van der Velden at the grand opening of the Community Health Center of Franklin County in Orange on Wednesday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • A grand opening ceremony for the Community Health Center of Franklin County’s new location in Orange was held Wednesday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 4/29/2021 1:25:55 PM
Modified: 4/29/2021 1:25:53 PM

ORANGE — The Community Health Center of Franklin County held a grand opening at its new Orange location on Wednesday, and plans to begin treating patients in the next couple of weeks.

The nonprofit hosted roughly 50 masked people at the event — complete with speakers including U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern as well as refreshments, small group tours and a ribbon-cutting — in the Aubuchon Plaza at 119 New Athol Road. The two-building, 22,000-square-foot site allows the organization to expand and own its own property, having previously operated out of a 6,570-square-foot facility at 450 West River St. owned by Heywood Hospital.

The health center provides medical and dental care, nutritional advice, and behavioral health and substance abuse treatment. The center will occupy 13,200 square feet, using the single-occupancy building as well as a vacant part of the adjacent multi-tenant building for dental work.

Other speakers Wednesday included Dr. Allison van der Velden, the health center’s CEO, and board President Terry Blanchard. Van der Velden explained her organization will collaborate and share a building with a Behavioral Health Network (BHN) office, which will address mental health and substance abuse issues.

“I’m just really excited that we finally have space again in the North Quabbin area, very excited to be actually building out these collaborations and these partnerships,” she said after the ribbon-cutting. “This collaboration with BHN is going to be really different and special for us, having a methadone-dispensing site … right there, next to our primary care facility, I think is going to mean a lot and go a long way — just make it easier for people to get the care that they need.”

During the overlap between the previous site’s closure in October and the opening of this new facility, the Community Health Center of Franklin County expanded its use of telehealth conferences to make physicians more accessible to patients and participated in the Franklin County Ride Share Pilot Project through the Franklin Regional Council of Governments to provide transportation to its patients. Van der Velden has previously said the health center contracts with About Town Taxi in Greenfield.

The center, which is borrowing about $3.2 million from Greenfield Savings Bank, held a groundbreaking ceremony on site in late August.

McGovern, donning an “END HUNGER NOW” face mask, said the grand opening is a happy occasion following more than 12 months of grim news and despair for the American health care system and its workers amid the lasting COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is a wonderful day. It’s a day to celebrate. And I believe every single person in our community deserves access to first-class health care, and this community health center is dedicated to that,” he said, adding that the center received $1.65 million in assistance from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, signed by President Joe Biden.

“We’ve been through a lot this last year, right? And so to be able to come here and celebrate something good for the entire community, the entire region, it’s great.”

The primary care facility, inside a former Aubuchon Hardware store, consists of the typical check-in desk and administrative offices and examination rooms. The sanitized, sterile environment reminds guests that it is a brand-new facility. The building also has gender-inclusive bathrooms, a kitchenette, a telehealth conference room and on-site phlebotomy.

McGovern said he has long been a vocal supporter of community health centers.

“The key word is ‘community,’” he said. “This is a place where community needs can be met and everybody will feel comfortable here. You know, one of the challenges with our (national) health care system is not everyone is welcome, not everybody can get access to good, first-class care. Here, everybody does. Everybody is welcome and if you walk through the facility, it’s very welcoming.”

Separately, van der Velden echoed that sentiment.

“(A community health center) shouldn’t feel like a place you have to go — it should be a place you want to go for your care,” she said. “And I think it really does.”

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.


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