Whittier Street Health Center Strengthens Its Capacity to Address Health Equity: Strengthening Its Social Services Leadership Team and Programs
To proactively address issues of systemic racism which have been exacerbated by the current COVID-19 pandemic for historically marginalized and vulnerable populations, Whittier Street Health Center has expanded its Programs and Social Services Department to highlight the organization’s commitment to promoting wellness and eliminating health disparities and social inequities. The culturally diverse team and culturally sensitive and compassionate services is being spearheaded by Christine Pajarillo, LICSW, who joined Whittier in 2005 as a Behavioral Health clinician. Pajarillo has been named the Vice President of Programs and Social Services. She held the title of Director of Behavioral Health from 2015-2020, and is a member of Whittier’s Executive Leadership team, reporting directly to the President and Chief Executive Officer, Frederica M. Williams.
“Christine Pajarillo is a gifted and compassionate caregiver and leader who consistently goes above and beyond the call of duty to implement and lead high quality and culturally sensitive programs and social services to improve the overall health and well-being of our diverse patient population, said Frederica M. Williams. During the years that she has served our patients, I have been pleased with her commitment and grateful for her service. Christine has participated in the successful accreditation process for the center’ Behavioral Health Department’s Joint Commission and NCQA Behavioral Health Integration recognition. As Director of Behavioral Health, Pajarillo’s extensive experience in the treatment of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder in women informed her work as the clinical lead of the Boston Public Health Commission funded Roxbury Neighborhood Trauma Team, and in the development and implementation of Whittier’s Mom’s Do Care Program, which provides wrap-around recovery support for pregnant or parenting women with opioid use disorder. Under Pajarillo’s leadership, in 2018, the Crossroads Group, Inc. recognized Whittier as having the top-scoring Behavioral Health service in their nationwide database in terms of overall patient satisfaction among organizations using the same standardized questionnaire and methodology. Help.org has named Whittier Street Health Center as one of the Best Drug & Alcohol Rehab and Treatment Centers in Danvers for the past 2 years because of the exemplary level of care provided to patients. Their data highlighted Whittier as a provider of a level of care that far exceeds generally accepted care standards. Pajarillo is a graduate of the Brooks School in North Andover and Skidmore College in Saratoga Spring, NY. She received her MSW from Simmons Graduate School of Social Work in Boston in 2001.
“For years, Whittier has been more than a health center, it’s been a resource for food, support and advocacy for our patients. The COVID-19 pandemic amplified the social and economic factors in Roxbury that have been contributing to poor health outcomes in our patients for far too long. Now, more than ever, we recognize our responsibility to strengthen our efforts to expand services to bring healing and health to the community,” said Pajarillo. The strategic restructuring of the Programs of Social Services Department, brings Behavioral Health, Youth Services, Infectious Disease and Special Populations, WIC, Nutrition, Food Pantry, Community Garden, Fitness Center, Community Outreach, Support and Education and the Department of Children and Families funded Lower Roxbury Coalition under its umbrella of services. With plans to grow its Food Pantry into a Community Nutrition Program, the reinstatement of the Lower Roxbury Coalition, newly launched Behavioral Health groups focused on trauma support for brown and black people, and the expansion of programming to address the increase in HIV in persons who inject drugs (PWID), Pajarillo and the Programs and Social Services Team are responding to the call to action to address health disparities in the surrounding neighborhoods. “Whittier’s President and CEO, Frederica M. Williams, has always been a champion of Whittier’s efforts to improve health outcomes for the community we serve. Her commitment, tireless drive and vigor inspires me to move forward and onward to fulfill our mission.”
Whittier Street Health Center is an independently licensed community health care center with a mission of providing high quality, reliable and accessible primary healthcare for diverse populations while promoting wellness and eliminating health and social disparities. A champion of equitable access to high quality, patient-focused care, social justice and economic equity, Whittier is accredited by The Joint Commission (TJC), certified by the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) as a Patient-Centered Medical Home, and recognized by the NCQA for its Behavioral Health Integration. Through its locations in Roxbury and North Dorchester, and its Mobile Health Van program, Whittier serves nearly 30,000 patients and 20,000 community outreach visits annually; its ethnically and racially diverse patient base is primarily made up of individuals from Roxbury, Dorchester, Jamaica Plain, the South End and Greater Boston. Approximately 36% of Whittier’s patients are uninsured. Whittier provides a comprehensive array of 40 healthcare programs and services designed to meet the primary health care, behavioral health, and social needs of the community. Learn more at www.wshc.org.