By Yadira Betances email@example.com
---- — LAWRENCE— Greater Lawrence Family Health Center has moved its administrative offices to Methuen, a year after Mayor William Lantigua and other state officials were opposed to the idea.
Robert Ingala, president of Greater Lawrence Health Center, said the move was necessary to expand its facility for the growing number of patients. He said they worked with an architect who estimated the agency needs a 28,000-square-foot space to meet its current and potential work needs. The clinic at 34 Haverhill St., will remain open, while doctors’ offices will move to the third floor where administration was so they can construct a full service pharmacy and 12 new exam rooms, hire new doctors, modernize the registration desk, and add more parking spaces. Administrative offices moved to 1 Griffin Brook Drive in Methuen.
“We’re not abandoning Lawrence,” Ingala said.
The health center clinics at 700 Essex St., 150 Park St., 73D Winthrop Avenue/Plaza 114, and the school-based centers at Lawrence High School and Greater Lawrence Technical School, will remain open. The center opened a site at Lawrence General Hospital this February and will also operate a clinic at Holy Family Hospital in Methuen late fall or early winter.
Last year, Lantigua, Economic Development director Patrick J. Blanchette, state Rep. Marcos Devers, D-Lawrence and state Sen. Barry Finegold, D-Andover, sent letters to the center’s board of directors asking them to keep their offices in Lawrence. At that time, center officials had considered moving its administrative offices to Andover. Before looking for property in Andover, center officials visited Union Crossing, Everett Mills, and One Union Street with Lantigua, Blanchette and McCabe on Dec. 5, 2011.
“I’m disappointed because they are a landmark and their move its symbolic in the city because it sends a message which is misrepresented and reflects bad on the city,” said Art McCabe, manager of the Community Development Department. “I’m pleased they are expanding, but we want to attract new businesses instead of having them leave.”
State Rep. Marcos A. Devers, who once served on the health center’s board of directors and received care at the clinic, also wanted Greater Lawrence Health Center to keep its administrative offices in Lawrence.
“I’m greatly disappointed,” Devers said. “We’re very proud to have an organization which has provided services to the poor and working class and it’s a shame that the leadership of this organization created in Lawrence could not find space in the city.”
Sen. Barry Finegold agreed.
“Logistically, if most of their customers and clients are in Lawrence, why not stay close to them?” Finegold said.
Neither Lantigua nor Blanchette returned telephone calls for this story.
Greater Lawrence Family Health Center has a $50 million budget, most of which comes from state and federal grants, said Communications Manager Marc Lemay. The center does not get any financial assistance from the city. There are approximately 44,000 active patients at all sites and more than 210,000 patient visits per year to all sites, Lemay said.