As part of an ongoing effort to bring coronavirus vaccine to populations hit hardest by the pandemic, public health officials in Springfield, Massachusetts announced a partnership with a behavioral health care provider.
A clinic operated by Behavioral Health Network in Springfield’s Liberty Heights neighborhood will become a COVID-19 vaccination site with appointments available to the public.
Springfield Health and Human Services Commissioner Helen Caulton-Harris said the clinic will be provided 250-300 doses of vaccine a week. The allocation will come from the 800 “social equity” doses the city receives weekly from the state -- vaccine that is to go into the arms of people who live in neighborhoods disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.
"It is important to us to partner with those agencies and organizations that we know have a relationship with the community and are really really doing the work," Caulton-Harris said. "This is not show time. This is do time."
Previously, the city announced a series of four pop-up neighborhood vaccination sites intended for inner city residents without the ability to travel to the state’s super vaccination site at the Eastfield Mall.
The pop-up vaccination clinics that are scheduled this week and next will each have 200 first doses of vaccine. The city has enlisted neighborhood organizations to reach out and register people for the clinics.
All the appointments were filled for the first clinic at St. John’s Congregational Church, a predominately Black church in the Mason Square neighborhood.
Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno said the city plans additional permanent neighborhood clinics like the one that BHN will operate.
"We know the people," said Sarno. "We know how to reach out, to bring them in, and reassure them that this ( vaccination ) is good for them, good for their families."
BHN provides mental health services and treatment for addiction to about 30,000 people annually in the greater Springfield area, according to Executive Vice President Jessica DeFlumer-Trapp, who conceded that running a vaccination clinic is outside the normal scope for the agency.
"But we saw a need, we saw an opportunity to defeat this pandemic that has had devastating impacts on the clients that we serve and on our staff," she said.
BHN president and CEO Steve Winn said they had previously been authorized by the state to provide coronavirus vaccine to its direct care employees and to clients in residential care settings.
"We are incredibly pleased at BHN to be part of an initiative to bring much needed vaccine to neighborhoods surrounding the BHN campus," said Winn.
Information about vaccination appointments at the neighborhood clinics is available on the city of Springfield’s website.
For people who do not have access to a personal computer or cellphone, the city has set up a call center for booking vaccination appointments by contacting the Springfield City Library or Department of Elder Affairs.