Codman’s Tax Clinic Opens for 2021 Season

Free Tax ServicesCodman’s earned income tax clinic (EITC), part of the Boston Tax Help Coalition, is open for the 2021 tax season! Community members who qualify can have their taxes completed and filed at no charge.

Due to COVID-19, there are no in-person services, but the clinic has created a simple way for community members to arrange to have their taxes completed.  Call 617-822-8182 and leave a message on the answering machine. A representative from the tax clinic will call back on a Monday or Tuesday evening between 4 and 8 pm and arrange a time for a drop-off appointment.

The tax clinic is fast, easy, and free, and your taxes are completed by IRS-certified tax preparers. The preparers are experts in maximizing refunds for people who qualify for the earned income tax credit, child tax credits, and health care tax credits.  Reserve your spot today!

 

Codman Starts Vaccinating Patients for COVID-19

patient gets vaccine

Codman patient and Mattapan resident Emma Rogers gets a COVID-19 vaccine on Feb. 8.

Codman has started the process of vaccinating patients for COVID-19! Codman has spent the last 6 weeks vaccinating its workforce and other community members who are in phase 1 of the vaccine rollout. On Monday, Feb. 8, we started to immunize those patients 75 years and older. We reached out to those patients by phone and text message for appointments.

In spite of the snowy weather, we had many of our most senior patients come early Monday morning ready for their vaccines. One patient shared how much he misses his daily workouts at the YMCA, and another spoke about her recent recovery from COVID-19.

Since COVID-19 first became part of our consciousness in February and March of 2020, we have faced many challenges as a health center. We’ve had to close sections of the health center. We’ve had to convert many of our medical appointments to telehealth. We’ve implemented new and time-consuming safety, screening, and cleaning processes. We erected a screening tent in our parking lot, stood up off-site testing at nearby Russell Auditorium, and other sites, and adjusted staffing levels. The most challenging part of all of it is the concern we have for our patients. We worry about their health and wellbeing, and miss seeing them in the Health Center. This vaccine is taking us one step closer to being able to see our patients in person more and we are thrilled about that.

 

Dorchester Winter Farmers Market Goes Virtual – Starts January 7

Cell phone with vegetablesThe Dorchester Winter Farmers Market is happy to announce that community members can still get their local fresh fruits and vegetables and other items, in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2021 market will be virtual, and the food will be delivered to your door!

Shoppers can click here for more information about the market. As in previous years, people shopping with SNAP benefits can earn money back on the fresh fruits and vegetables they purchase. Visit the website for more information, food availability lists, and recipes!

Codman Square Health Center Supports Black Lives Matter

black lives matter vertical banner in lobbyThe brutal murder of George Floyd by the Minneapolis Police, caught on video so that all could see, was a turning point in the Black Lives Matter movement. When Floyd’s name was added to a long list of defenseless black men and women murdered in cold blood, the country and world responded with outrage and pain.

Codman Square Health Center, an organization with deep roots in the heart of Boston’s Black community, could not remain silent. We wanted to let our patients, staff, and community know that we heard their cries of pain and trauma.

We started our response by writing a clear and concise message that we recognize and support the Black Lives Matter movement. We don’t just support the community, we are the community. Black lives have always mattered at Codman, as we treat a patient population that is more than 95% people of color. For that reason, we have stated:

“Black Lives Matter – Codman Square Health Center stands with

our community in fighting racial injustice.”

Codman created a Black Lives Matter image that incorporated the statement above and our logo. We put that image on/in:

  • Facebook posts
  • Facebook banner
  • Twitter posts
  • Twitter banner
  • Instagram posts
  • Regular advertisements in the Bay State Banner and the Dorchester Reporter
  • Front page placement on our Codman.org website
  • 2 6-foot tall retractable banners in Codman’s lobby and front vestibule (the first image you see as you ascend the Health Center’s from steps.)
  • 8’ x 4’ banners on the fence in front of the Health Center and Great Hall
  • 8’ x 4’ banners at our Health and Wellness Center at 450 Washington Street

 

We also launched a “listening session” series for staff to discuss topics such as self-care, unconscious bias, and other important issues related to racial trauma and race relations.

We acted quickly because we wanted to affirm and validate the feelings of our staff, patients, and community , but as we move forward, we will continue to seek input, including  from our staff, on next steps.

Codman leadership is consulting with local organizations to provide a training for health center staff to ensure that we provide an environment that is open and inclusive, and actively anti-racist.

Codman Offers Mobile Well-Child Visits

Dr. Daftary holds babyFor families who cannot get to Codman for their child’s wellness visits, our providers are now available to go to them! The Codman Square Pediatric Mobile Vaccine and Well-Child Van is starting visits next month, and will treat children (ages 0-2) whose families cannot  make it to the Health Center because of transportation, health, or other reasons.

Due to COVID-19, many families did not come to the Health Center for their well-child visits from mid-March on. As a result, providers conducted significantly fewer well-child visits and immunizations. In April of 2020, Codman performed only about one third of the typical number of well-child visits for children 2 and under, which means these young children are missing, among other things, important vaccinations. But now we have a solution to this important issue.

The mobile well-child vans will drive to a patient’s home for an immunization. The van will be staffed with a provider and nurse who will perform the child’s visit including, if needed, vaccinations.

Provider’s stress that coming to Codman for a child’s visit allows for the most comprehensive care, and that the van will temporarily offer this important service for those families who cannot visit the Health Center. Families who would like to have their child’s visit conducted in the mobile unit should call their health care provider.

We will be using a mobile clinic van that is already licensed through the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to Boston Health Care for the Homeless through support from the Kraft Center for Community Health.

image of two women

Codman Launches Nurse Practitioner Residency Program

Codman Square Health Center is proud to announce the inaugural year of our Family Nurse Practitioner Residency program!  We welcome two top-notch, newly graduated FNPs: Nnemdi Azubuko and Marta Escriu-Suñé.  The residency will be 12 months in duration, and Ms. Azubuko and Ms. Escriu- Suñé will remain at Codman as family medicine providers for at least one year post-residency.

CSHC has long been an organization that embraces training and education, hosting medical interns, nursing students, and a robust Family Medicine Residency through Boston University School of Medicine.  CSHC also hosts residencies in Internal Medicine, Pediatrics, Optometry, and Dental.  We have also hired and trained many newly graduated Nurse Practitioners over the years.

This FNP residency program will formalize and expand on our training and expertise, preparing a cohort of diverse nurse practitioners who we hope will become leaders in community health. “Codman does an excellent job pairing high quality training with excellent patient care,” states Kyla Biegun, a FNP at Codman for 8 years and currently serving as interim NP Residency Director.

For more than 40 years, Codman Square Health Center has served our patients and community by providing high-quality and holistic care and nurse practitioners have been part of that excellent care since the mid-1970s, when the Commonwealth passed legislation allowing advanced practice nurses to evaluate, diagnose, and treat patients.

“Nurse Practitioners play an important role at Codman,” Kyla expands. “This residency opportunity will continue to elevate the NP here and in the fields of Family Medicine and Community Health.”  Residencies are a relatively new part of an NP education but are quickly becoming the wave of the future.  Among the first in the country, this pioneering residency program confirms Codman’s status as a cutting-edge leader in community health.

The process of securing our two residents was competitive and intense, with Codman seeking NPs with a commitment to community health, language skills, and a connection to the community.  Although there were many excellent candidates, we chose Ms. Azubuko and Ms. Escriu-Suñé.   (Please see below a brief description).

Nnemdi Azubuko is a native of Dorchester and completed her undergraduate degree at Bridgewater State University. She earned her Masters of Science at Yale School of Nursing, where she developed an interest in providing care for marginalized communities. She completed additional coursework in gender and health justice to learn about providing care to individuals living with HIV/AIDS, substance use disorder, and members of the LGBTQIA communities.  Nnemdi enjoys spending time with her family and friends, and cooking.

Marta Escriu-Suñé was born and raised in Catalonia, Spain. She completed her undergraduate degree in Biology at the University of Massachusetts Boston and earned her Ph.D. from University of Massachusetts Worcester Graduate School of Nursing.  While in school, she volunteered with a global health group, training community health workers in the Dominican Republic to manage hypertension among Haitian migrant workers. She also has experience working with homeless families in Boston.  Marta has worked as a case manager and nurse at two community health centers in Boston. She is especially interested in women’s health, immigrant health, and addiction medicine. Outside of the clinic she enjoys hiking, reading, art, and dancing.

Please join us in enthusiastically welcoming Nnemdi and Marta to Codman as our first Family Nurse Practitioner Residents.

Codman Re-Opens Doors for Routine Medical Care: Beyond COVID-19

sign in parking lotAlmost four months after we suspended in-person, routine health care visits to focus on COVID-19 care, Urgent Care, and patients who needed emergent, in-person care, Codman is happy to begin re-opening its doors, under strict regulatory guidelines,  for most routine care visits.

Some routine care that can be and has been delivered via telehealth will continue as well. For example, our Behavioral Health and Nutrition departments are still conducting most of their visits via telehealth. Both departments have reported the effectiveness of this method.

Although Codman made many changes to its model of care and operations to address the pandemic, patients continue to receive the same high-quality care they have always received. These changes include:

  • Curbside Appointment Check-In. Patients who arrive to their appointment in a car can check in over the phone and stay in their vehicle until their provider is ready to see them. This significantly reduces the number of people in the clinic and enables social distancing protocol. Patients just call 617-825-9660 and press 9 when they arrive.
  • Appointment Time Buffers. We have increased the amount of time between each appointment to reduce the number of people in the Health Center.
  • Socially Distanced Waiting Rooms. To ensure that patients stay socially distanced, waiting room chairs have been placed six feet away from each other, and staff are monitoring room capacity. If a waiting room fills to capacity, a patient service navigator can move patients to an overflow waiting area in our pediatric group room.
  • Visitors Screened. Friends or family members who accompany a patient to an appointment are screened by front desk staff and receive a visitor’s badge while they are here. This enables Codman to monitor who is in the building.
  • Transition to Mobile COVID-19 testing. After almost three months, we removed the testing tent standing in the parking lot. Now, patients and community members who want COVID-19 testing can attend one of our daily mobile testing sites. We also continue to test in our Urgent Care Department.

Codman Co-Hosts Conference on HIV and Substance Use Disorder: Lessons Learned

Denise Croken, NP, CARN-NP, with former Codman staff member Pooja Raval, MC, and Raphael Apter, LMHC.

This winter, Codman staff joined forces with the National Aids Education and Training Center to host a full-day conference in Boston titled “35 Years of HIV and SUD Lessons Learned and Shared Experiences.” The conference was organized and kicked off by Codman’s Dr. Jonathan Pincus, MD, who has worked in HIV care for more than 25 years.

“When I started working with HIV patients in the 90s, they faced serious stigma, complex treatment needs, housing issues, and other challenges,” says Dr. Pincus “We are seeing patients with addiction facing many of those same issues, so we believe there is great value in getting those involved together to talk about what we’ve learned and the best ways to move forward.”

At the conference, experts in the fields gathered together and shared information, broke into discussion groups, and heard from experts in topics such as community engagement, peer/patient engagement, legal support, and more. Like HIV, harm reduction practices in addiction use can save lives, and providers see that up close.

In addition to Dr. Pincus’ contributions, Codman’s Ian Huntington, MD, and Denise Croken, NP, spoke about advanced clinical issues in substance use health and wellness. They presented on a cutting-edge treatment that is a long-acting injectable for opioid disorder. Instead of a pill every day, patients can get an injection once a month. “Codman was one of the first community health centers in the state to offer this injectable, so we were happy to share our experiences,” says Denise Croken, MSN, NP, CARN-NP, a substance use health and wellness nurse practitioner.

Meet Codman’s Newest Board Member: Desiree Otenti

Desiree Otenti, MSN, MPH, recently joined Codman’s Board of Directors and brings with her advanced practice nursing experience, deep knowledge of vulnerable populations, and management and insurance expertise.  Her unique experience and perspective will be a valuable addition to the board, which is comprised of patients, community members, and experts in the health care field.

Otenti studied biology in college, but it was an early experience that drove her to want to help others. She recalls when she was 8 years old her father, born in India, took her on a trip to visit family in his home country. While shocked by the poverty in general, she was particularly moved by an elderly man sitting in the hot sun begging for money. Her father wondered aloud why no one helped move the man to the shade. Desiree remembered thinking “Why don’t we help him?” That memory and the feeling of wanting to help people in need remains with her today.Once she graduated, she decided to combine her passion for science with her life-long desire to help people.

Desiree continued her education and became a nurse practitioner.   She started to practice  at our fellow community health center – Boston Health Care for the Homeless. Here she gained a lot of medical experience, and also  got to know a very vulnerable population of patients.  She later went back to school to study Public Health, focusing on policy and management. “I realized that helping patients one-on-one was meaningful, but using the knowledge I gained from patient care to help create patient-centered policies would be more impactful. I wanted to help a population of people all at once,” she says.

She has served as the director of case management at Boston Health Care for the Homeless, and eventually became a senior clinical manager at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts where she is now their senior director of medical policy. “It’s been eye opening to see the health care system from this bigger-picture view. Health care resources are limited, so it’s increasingly important to make sure the right patients are getting the right treatments that will actually improve their health outcomes.”

In this current role, Desiree oversees the review of medical literature that examines which new medical devices, drugs, and procedures are most effective for which patients. With that information, BCBSMA can create criteria about which patients receive certain services. “We look at the studies product manufacturers conduct to get FDA approval and ask – does this study prove that this device actually makes the patient have a better health outcome?” she says.

Desiree also volunteers for BCBS’s Women’s Inclusion Network. As a past  president, she continues to organize programs and events for the female BCBS staff.

In the summer of 2019, Desiree learned about the opportunity to serve on the Board of Directors of Codman, and was happy to become a part of team Codman. “Between my ongoing work as a nurse practitioner taking care of vulnerable patients and my work on the payer side, I have a unique perspective of the health care field – the forest and the trees,” she says. “I hope to use this knowledge to help continue to position CSHC as a leader in the heaLth care industry, not only as a model for other community health centers, but as a beacon for the industry as a whole. CSHC has a holistic view of health that goes beyond the stethoscope and clinic door, which complements her talents..

Desiree says that she is still trying to learn as much as possible about the health center, its staff, board, and aspirations.  She is committed to working with Codman in its role of keeping the community healthy. She says she doesn’t think that the current status quo of health care delivery does that, but is impressed with Codman’s work thus far in making positive change.

“CSHC has a history of exploring outside of the box ways to bring health and wellness beyond the clinic doors. I want to continue to explore new models of care delivery, new ideas around what actually makes a community healthy, and new partnerships to deepen CSHC’s impact for the people we serve.”