Since Harvard Street Neighborhood Health Center (HSNHC) first opened its doors in 1969 it has been an invaluable source of primary care for residents of some of the poorest communities in Boston — Mattapan, Dorchester, Roxbury, and the South End area. It has also become a pillar of support for veterans by providing services close to home. Veterans were once forced to take multiple bus rides downtown to government office buildings for services such as health care, counseling, and signing up for benefits. Then HSNHC launched a Veterans Resource Center thanks to a partnership with CeltiCare Health and a $100,000 grant from Boston Mayor Martin Walsh and the trustees of the George Robert White Fund. The goal is to provide veterans better access to state, local and federal resources, health care services and health insurance navigation, and also offer an informal gathering place to help veterans connect with each other. Over time, word spread and community members, other nonprofits and government agencies stepped in to help make it a repository of services veterans can tap into — including housing, employment, benefits, legal and affordable health care. Such support could not have happened soon enough for the local veteran community.
“HSNHC Veterans Center has seen over 300 veterans in the last year alone,” says Stan McLaren, President & CEO. “Many have mental health challenges resulting from PTSD – post traumatic stress disorder, diabetes, and we are finding many men with tinnitus, (hearing challenges) heart disease, respiratory issues. The benefits of a full-service Veterans Center as part of Harvard Street is that we are able to not only refer clients to our partner veteran organizations, but refer them for critical health care and services that support their overall health and wellness. We continue to collect data about our patients who might be vets or have family members who are vets to ensure that we can support them in a number of areas such as owed compensation, food pantry referrals and connecting them with needed dental and mental health services.”
HSNHC’s work with veterans is part of a widening trend. Over 400,000 veterans nationwide turn to health centers for essential medical, dental and behavioral health services — and their numbers are growing. To learn more about health centers and veterans’ health please visit this link.