LETTER: Is it Too Late to Save Adult Medical Rehab Center?

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At 51 Water St., just across the river from downtown Watertown, several local services have been available to the Watertown community, including a large adult day care service and, notably, the Community Rehab Care group. (For orientation, 51 Water St. is the area facing Nonantum Road, behind the bus turn-around and near the MBTA lots.)

Community Rehab Care provides (in their own words): “community-based outpatient rehabilitation and support services to adults and children with neurologic, musculoskeletal, or orthopedic injuries or illnesses.” That covers everyone from children to adults to elderly, who must deal with anything from serious car, sports, or other accidents, to strokes, brain-surgery, post-cancer or post-Covid problems — and much else. As I know from personal experience, the professionals there are dedicated, very busy, and relatively convenient for Watertown residents who need their help. But very unfortunately, the part about convenience is about to change, quite a bit.

Up to this past year, relatively easy access to 51 Water St. was possible, though not without a quirk or two having to do with traffic and lane closures on Galen and blockage on Water St. itself.  Now, all access depends on tricky turns from or onto Nonantum Road — plus whatever it takes you to get to onto Nonantum. The current loss of easy and direct access is difficult, although some have seemed to assume that it’s all just temporary. At this moment, there is still a modest public parking area, bounded by huge construction-determined rough, equipment,  barriers, markers, and parking for employees of the construction company. That’s all going to disappear shortly. 

One has to wonder, though: didn’t anybody (other than current clients of the 51 Water St. services) really worry about realistic accommodations there? No, on the contrary, many plans and sketches for the new construction failed even to show the building itself — simply placing walks and trees in what will have become an open space, apparently without discussion of the fate of those now working there and their clients. 

Indeed, here is what appeared in the Aug. 29, 2022, Watertown News, showing open space trees and walkways where the rehab/daycare facility now stands, across from the “MBTA Bus Yard”):

Alas, last week the Rehab center announced they must close in September and move to a site west of Rte. 95/128 near the Waltham-Weston border. The loss for local existing clients is just beginning to be understood. Moreover, many more Watertown residents, especially those in the east, central, and north areas, may become new clients in the relatively near future. And most clients require caregivers or drivers who will now have to double or triple the time needed.  

Can’t “they” (we) find anyone or any place else, some may ask. Not anywhere as close-by.  Moreover, note that while the first life-science building reportedly offered day-care space for employees’ children, that’s obviously a completely different need from the specialized, adult therapeutic out-patient care we’re about to lose. Did anyone ask about that? Regarding adult rehab, from experience I already know that, while physical/occupational therapy is widely available to athletes or those with short-term medical problems, finding local help for serious, adult, longterm neurological/systemic problems is far more difficult — and increasingly so every day.   

The Waltham-Weston area will be fortunate in having the Community Rehab group move in. But it’s a bigger loss to the Watertown community than anyone — other than the group itself and their clients — seems to realize. Is it too late — or naive — to revisit this need with regard to the planned new building(s)? Very likely that will be the “unavoidably” sad lesson here. But this is a loss to the community that shouldn’t be necessary, especially at this stage of forthcoming “development.”

Below is a photo of the 51 Water St. facility next to the Life-Science building as the area looked on Aug. 3, 2023. The contrast of priorities is striking. One building on the left illustrates rich investment in life-science research management; the other reflects “investment” or lack thereof in community health care delivery.   

Is it too late to make a priority of health care delivery to Watertown residents with long-term, elderly, or special health problems as part of city approvals for such extravagant future projects? Say it’s not too late. 

Priscilla Murphy
Watertown Resident 

2 thoughts on “LETTER: Is it Too Late to Save Adult Medical Rehab Center?

    • Hopefully, not too late. Should be a solution to save this facility. Folks should not have to travel to get assistance when it is local. This is not progress. It is disgraceful.

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