Healthy Somerville 2022

Building a Healthy Somerville

Cambridge Health Alliance (CHA) is proud of its deep history in Somerville, starting in 1996 when the organization was founded by merging Somerville Campus (established in 1891) with Cambridge Hospital to form one hospital and a network of health centers. Today, CHA operates four health care centers and an outpatient hospital campus (Somerville Campus) with a 24/7 Emergency Department. More than 17,000 Somervillians choose CHA for primary care and visit us close to 50,000 times per year.

As part of our mission, CHA constantly seeks to improve the health of our communities. CHA operates the Somerville Community Health Agenda (SCHA), an innovative partnership between CHA, the Somerville Health Department and the community that works collaboratively to improve the health of Somerville residents. SCHA's work embraces a broad definition of health that goes beyond the absence of disease to address root cause issues affecting health in our community.

Our Process

In 2017, CHA and the City of Somerville published the Wellbeing of Somerville Report – a health needs assessment that laid the groundwork for the development of a comprehensive CHA strategy to meet the evolving health needs of the Somerville community. In 2018, a Somerville/CHA Health Care Advisory Group formed to prioritize health needs in the city and offer programming and service recommendations. The group held six "listening sessions" in Somerville neighborhoods in March and April 2018 and conducted a comprehensive survey which received more than 1,000 responses. For details on the Advisory Group's findings and community feedback including survey response data, see this Executive Summary prepared by an expert consultant for CHA.

This initiative was part of a three-year planning process in which CHA received extensive feedback from the community, elected officials, providers, staff, community partners and other local stakeholders. Key priorities identified through this effort include the need to increase access to convenient and affordable services, respond to the City's changing demographics and health service needs, and maintain access to underserved populations that are core to our mission.

Strategy and Investments for a Healthy Somerville

CHA developed a Healthy Somerville 2022 plan to address these key priorities including:

  • Increase Primary Care access to serve 14,000 new patients (NEW Assembly Square practice, expansions at Broadway and Porter Square)
  • Build a NEW Care Center in Union Square (2023)
  • Convert the Somerville Emergency Department to an urgent care center that cares for all
  • Renovate the CHA Central Street Care Center
  • Maintain strong safety net system of care
  • Relocate Teen Health Center to new Somerville High School
  • Implement a health improvement plan in partnership with the City

ED to Urgent Care

CHA is converting the Somerville Emergency Department (ED) to an urgent care center that we believe better meets the needs of the community. Community meetings were held in late June and early July 2019 to share details about the strategy and garner feedback from patients and stakeholders. The conversion is part of a larger strategy that maintains a strong safety net for vulnerable populations, responds to demographic and industry changes, increases access to core services including primary care and behavioral health and supports ongoing efforts to deliver integrated care. 

CHA Urgent Care at the CHA Somerville Campus

  • Staffed by emergency medicine physicians and registered nurses
  • High level of expertise and services not available in most urgent care settings
  • Interpreters and culturally sensitive providers
  • All welcome regardless of ability to pay
  • Open from 9 a.m.-9 p.m. 7 days/week*
  • Walk-in, no appointment necessary
  • Lower-cost option to ED for many health needs

* Operating hours may differ on a few holidays. The CHA website will have updated information.

Urgent care centers treat injuries or illnesses that need immediate attention, but are not serious enough for an ED visit

  • Sick visits for fevers, sore throats, coughs, colds, earaches and flu
  • Accidents, falls, sprains, strains and broken bones
  • Burns and cuts, including lacerations requiring stitches
  • Allergic reactions
  • Insect stings, bug and animal bites, other rashes
  • Sunburn, heat stroke, frostbite
  • Intravenous medications and fluids*
  • Blood tests and lab services*
  • X-ray*
  • Back problems
  • Stomach illnesses, vomiting, diarrhea and dehydration
  • Work-related services including employment physicals
  • Immunizations and vaccinations
  • School, sports and camp forms

* At CHA Urgent Care, may not be available at other urgent care centers

This is a change for the community.

Please consider the following information.

  • Somerville has changed since CHA was created in the 1990s. Overall, residents are younger and the number of older adults living here has declined 18% since 1990.
  • Residents' need for hospital admission is down 26% and emergency care use is down 16% since 2012. These declines diverge from national ED utilization rates that are trending upward, demonstrating that the Somerville community's needs have changed.
  • The use of the Somerville Campus ED has also changed in the last 10 years. Visits are down 36% (16,256) and the kind of care patients come to the Somerville ED for is closer to an urgent care level than an ED. Many residents choose to go to our Cambridge ED (on the Somerville City line) for more severe needs.
  • This is not a financially driven decision but one that we believe better meets the needs of the community. It fills a gap between primary and emergency care that is accessible by all, regardless of ability to pay, with culturally sensitive providers and interpreters in more than 70 languages.
  • CHA's Healthy Somerville 2022 plan includes substantial investment, including $7.5 million for renovation of the Central Street Care Center, plus conversion of the ED to urgent care, the Teen Health Center and construction of a new Care Center in Union Square. This follows the investment in a new primary care practice at Assembly Square and expansion of mental health and substance use service access.

Dr. Blau with Patient in Hallway

Next Steps

  1. CHA’s Board of Trustees approved the Healthy Somerville 2022 plan, including the conversion of the Somerville ED to an urgent care center, on July 16, 2019.
  2. CHA expects the urgent care center to open in the spring of 2020.
  3. Extensive outreach campaign to educate the public and our partners about the change in service and care options.
  4. CHA values its employees, and all impacted nurses and staff will be offered comparable positions either at the urgent care center or elsewhere within CHA.

For questions, contact David Cecere, Senior Director of Corporate Communications, at

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