health

Community Health Centers Eye Continued Expansion

Community Health Centers, often referred to as federally qualified health centers or FQHCs, are major providers of comprehensive primary healthcare in the state of New Jersey. They are funded and qualified by the federal government, and provide care to the most underserved citizens in the state. They are specifically tailored to the physical, psychosocial, nutritional and health education needs of each of their communities, and possess a variety of unique qualities which distinguish them from other healthcare providers, such as having unique hours, sliding fee scales, mobile clinics, and more.

There are currently 24 community health centers in New Jersey that operate 136 satellite sites in communities across the state.

During a roundtable discussion today at the Eric B. Chandler Health Center at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, which included US Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra, Congressman Frank Pallone, and Acting Governor Sheila Oliver, a number of New Jersey-based FQHC executives shared insights on the path forward for their healthcare centers as the state continues to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.

A common theme for all of them was expansion.

“We feel we need to continue to expand services in our area,” Jack O’Leary, CEO of the Jewish Renaissance Medical Center in Perth Amboy, said. “We are a primary care facility, but we have now expanded into endocrinology, podiatry and radiology, and we are almost [set up] with our first satellite location in Carteret. We feel that [expanding] is the best way – as an FQHC – that we can provide these important disciplines to our underserved populations.”

While short-term funding is a necessity to operate effectively, knowing that long-term funding will be there to expand services and add new locations is vital for FQHCs to meet their goals of serving their communities.

“We [need] to know that the money [is] going to be there,” said Christopher Rinn,

chief executive officer of the Visiting Nurse Association of Central Jersey Community Health Center. “Having funding during the pandemic allowed us to look at emergency protective measures and allowed us to get to the businesses of protecting those in our community with launching testing, preparing for vaccination, and protecting our workforce.”

“We are now expanding our Red Bank location by doubling its size and adding exam rooms,” Rinn added. “And, as a result of federal funding, we are able to add dental services to all of our locations.”

The Biden administration has also committed an additional, approximately $6 billion, to community health centers across the country, money coming in large part from the American Rescue Plan.

“That funding will not just help to expand and add services, but it will help us put sites into areas where they are most needed,” Rinn said.

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