The BROCKTON NEIGHBORHOOD
An Institution Formed and Molded by Controversy
History Complied by Jennifer Collins
Independent Studies Project
According to behavioral theories of communication and decision-making, the rational solution to a problem is not always the best answer. Therefore, when controversy inhibits the development of an organization, the organization may be forced to adopt other useful tactics besides ideal rationality. These theories have held true for the development of the Brockton Neighborhood Health Center, an institution formed and molded by controversy, and maintained by the strong will and determination of its supporters.
The arguments of the supporters of the Brockton Neighborhood Health Center were based on concern for the medical needs of Brockton’s diverse population. Statistics were used to strengthen this argument. The political opposition, however, did not lack medical concern for the citizens of Brockton. The dispute, rather, lied in the issue of the proposed effectiveness of the Brockton Neighborhood Health Center, and the concerns of the repercussions of the clinic’s location. Proponents of the Brockton Neighborhood Health Center argued that the downtown area of Brockton is a high “at-risk” area for teenage pregnancy rates and infant mortality rates. It had been found that the high uninsured population of Brockton was a major cause of these medical issues in the community. By using examples of other communities in Massachusetts and New England, Brockton Neighborhood Health Center proponents attempted to persuade the opposition that a community-based health center would target the medical issues that have been recognized in Brockton.
On the other hand, the opponents of the Brockton Neighborhood Health Center were equal in strength. Many of these opponents were members of the Brockton City Council, which ultimately voted on the issue. The area of downtown Brockton is the home to many long-time community businesses including jewelers, restaurants, and clothing stores. This area also contains many political offices; the school department, Brockton City Hall, and the Brockton courthouse. Would the establishment of a free health clinic damage the image of the downtown area? Opponents had many such questions and fears. Would free, general examinations and immunizations draw overwhelming crowds of people? What sort of people? This type of clinic could very well act as a magnet for the medically deprived. According to surveys and research, this medically deprived part of the population of Brockton included poverty-stricken people, pregnant women, STD-infected people, drug addicts, and non-English speaking minorities. Common sense told the opposers that this would not necessarily be a benefit to the community since these types of people would only draw more social and economic problems, which, in turn, lead to more medical problems. The largest problem expected to be enhanced by those seeking free health care was violence. For this reason, many local business owners joined the opposition to the Brockton Neighborhood Health Center. Another argument which was justifiable on the side of the opposition was the idea that the Brockton Neighborhood Health Center would be servicing many people from the surrounding areas. Health Centers established in the Boston area had been receiving patients from the surrounding areas all over the. South Shore in Massachusetts, including Brockton. If Brockton were to be receiving those from other communities, then the Brockton medical problems would not remain the target and the entire concept of the community-based clinic would be impossible to attain. Thus, the strong opponents maintained logical and justifiable arguments along with the proponents. The situation remained a Catch-22. Ironically, although both sides opposed the other, each side argued out of the same concern for the population of Brockton. Therefore, any type of action or progression was - suspended due to controversy.
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