Lynn health center expansion nears finish

An atrium dedicated to the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy will connect the health center’s old and new sections. An atrium dedicated to the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy will connect the health center’s old and new sections.
By John Laidler
Globe Correspondent / August 18, 2011

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Four decades after it began as a small storefront mental health clinic, the Lynn Community Health Center has evolved into the city’s largest outpatient health care provider, serving about 34,000 patients a year.

Now the nonprofit is in the midst of a major building expansion that the agency says will provide the added space needed to meet the growing demand for its services.

The $18.8 million project consists of a 55,000-square-foot addition to the center’s existing 30,000-square-foot main building at 269 Union St.

“We are really excited about being able to provide excellent services to more patients that desperately need care,’’ said Lori Berry, the center’s executive director. “For primary care and for all our services, the demand is more than we can handle.’’

According to Berry, the expansion will allow the organization to serve at least 6,000 additional patients.

Work is nearly complete on the project’s $11.9 million first phase. Begun in July 2010, that work involves construction of the three-story addition and development of its first floor to house a new urgent-care center that will replace a smaller walk-in clinic.

The first floor will also have space for a new central registration area and improved laboratory, radiology, and mammography services facilities. The urgent-care center is set to open in mid-September and the other facilities shortly afterward.

The $6.9 million second phase, which got underway this spring and is set for completion by the end of the year, involves development of the basement and second floor. The second floor will provide additional space for primary care and behavioral health rooms and expanded facilities for the center’s dental clinic. The basement will provide space for offices, community uses, and patient visits with teams of health providers.

Lynn Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy said the city welcomes expansion of the center, which is part of a national network of community health centers for primarily low-income populations.

Noting that the center serves about a third of Lynn’s population, she said, “They are really vital to the overall health of the community and I think they do a terrific job.’’

Kennedy said that when she visited the center’s main building several months ago, she noticed “they were really packed in there. They were using every available bit of space, so this expansion is certainly necessary for them.’’

On Oct. 17, the center plans a ribbon-cutting at which it will dedicate a new atrium linking the old building and the addition to Edward M. Kennedy. The late senator’s widow, Victoria Reggie Kennedy, plans to take part.

Then early next year, the agency plans to will dedicate the new addition to the late Dr. Stephen D. Hayes, the center’s cofounder and its former longtime director of behavioral health and integrated services, who died this past May.

The health center began in 1971 as a small counseling office on Chestnut Street run by Hayes.