RANDOLPH – For Chris Paul, a three-sport athlete at Randolph High School, a recent medical appointment meant a trip out of town and lost class time.
Soon, it may only require a walk down the hall.
U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley visited Randolph on Wednesday to announce it will receive $1 million in federal money for the construction of a community health center at Randolph High School. She said the center would help lower the barriers to health care services for Randolph residents and support an equitable pandemic recovery for the town, which is made up of a diverse population and a large number of immigrants.
“Randolph experienced a shortage of health care services before COVID,” Pressley said.
Town Manager Brian Howard said the clinic is a first-step toward the goal of a free-standing, full-service community health center. He said the lack of local medical providers hampered the town’s response to the pandemic, when testing and isolation were important to stop the spread.
“This pandemic laid it bare,” Howard said of the lack of medical services in Randolph.
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With a population of 35,000 people, Randolph had more than 9,500 cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic over two years ago.
Howard said improved access to medical care is key to fighting other diseases as well.
“Access to local health care services saves lives,” Howard said. “This facility will bring so much hope to so many people.”
The clinic will be operated by the Codman Square Community Health Center of Dorchester. Sandra Cotterell, chief executive officer of the center, said it already provides medical care to nearly 4,500 Randolph residents.
“We are excited to provide these services,” Cotterell said.
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The center will focus its services on residents between the ages of 3 and 24 and their families, and will be staffed initially by a nurse practitioner, mental health clinicians and medical assistants, Cotterell said. It will provide services such as routine physicals, immunizations and mental health services and will also help arrange appointments with other providers. She hopes to eventually have a doctor working at the center.
Randolph School Superintendent Thea Stovell said the center is “a huge win for our families and students. It would provide the resources our families where they need them.”
It would mean students would miss less class time for health reasons and likely lead to better academic performance, Stovell said.
Hannah Nguyen, a member of the high school’s tennis team, said her grades suffered when she had some health problems and had to miss classes for medical appointments.
Michelle Tyler, the town’s planning director, hopes to have the center open in time for the 2023-24 school year.
Howard said the town will apply for grants to help pay operating costs.
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This article originally appeared on The Patriot Ledger: ‘So much hope’: Grant will open community health center at Randolph High