National Health Center Week celebrated at state kick-off

There was quite a turnout to celebrate the statewide National Health Center Week (NHCW) kick-off.  NHCW (August 7th- 13th) is an annual celebration to raise awareness about the mission and accomplishments of America’s Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs).

Neighborhood Health Services Corp., the New Jersey Primary Care Association (NJPCA), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) Region II, New Jersey Department of Human Services, New Jersey Department of Health, the Plainfield, NJ Mayor’s Chief of Staff and Director of Communications and Technology Jazz Clayton-Hunt, Assemblywoman Linda Carter, U.S. Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (via video message), the Constituent Advocate from U.S. Senator Menendez’s office Carolina Montes, and Dr. Chris Pernell all took part in the celebration.

“Neighborhood Health is honored to be the official host site for the National Health Center Week in New Jersey.  This is a powerful opportunity to raise awareness for Federally Qualified Health Centers around the country as well as celebrate their mission, accomplishments, and amazing healthcare heroes”  Dr. Kerri Powell, president and CEO of Neighborhood Health and Board Secretary for the New Jersey Primary Care Association said. “I am proud of the staff at Neighborhood Health for their unwavering commitment throughout the pandemic which allowed the doors of our center to remain open, assuring access to health care for the most vulnerable members of our community. Like our fellow FQHCs, we also faced the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic head on by rolling out telehealth services, COVID-19 vaccines, testing, and treatment.”

Community Health Centers provide high-quality primary, dental, and behavioral health care services to their patients regardless of their ability to pay.  New Jersey Health Centers also ensure that patients have access to affordable food, housing, and transportation services.  For over two years, New Jersey FQHCs have also served as front-line responders during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Annually, the 23 Community Health Centers in New Jersey serve nearly 600,000 patients across all 21 counties of the State. Throughout the pandemic, Health Centers’ doors have remained open to serve their patients in-person and through telehealth and they have continued to administer COVID-19 testing and life-saving vaccines.

Federal and State funding has allowed Health Centers to expand COVID-19 vaccination, testing, contract tracing, and treatment of COVID-19; purchase equipment, including mobile units to conduct COVID-19 testing or vaccinations; and provide COVID-19 community outreach and education.  These services are specially designed for those at higher risk for COVID-19 and the communities most impacted by the pandemic.

“This year, the theme of NHCW is Community Health Centers: The Chemistry for Strong Communities. This theme perfectly captures the role that Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) play within the communities they serve. We at the U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services are extremely proud of our community health center program” Dennis González, HHS, Region II, Executive Officer stated. “For over 50 years, the Federal government has provided crucial funding to health centers all throughout the country allowing them to serve the healthcare needs of so many underserved and disadvantaged communities.  What started as a small grant program with a hand-full of health centers in 1966, has developed into a far-reaching program of 1,400 centers throughout the 50 states and 5 territories, serving the primary and preventive health needs of 29 million patients.”

Throughout the week, Health Centers across the nation celebrate the innovative ways they provide high-quality healthcare to various populations such as people experiencing homeless, children, and agricultural workers. Health Centers also host staff, patient, and community stakeholder appreciation days.

“New Jersey’s Federally Qualified Health Centers are truly treasured assets in their communities,” Deborah Hartel, deputy commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Health’s Integrated Health Services Branch said. “The work that they do is critical—serving our most vulnerable populations including those who are uninsured, underserved and undocumented—who would otherwise lack access to a medical home.”

More than 40 NHCW events are scheduled in New Jersey, including health fairs, vaccine fairs, visits by Members of Congress and state officials to local health centers,  press  conferences, back-to-school drives, and free health screenings and vaccines.

After the New Jersey kick-off press conference, Neighborhood Health’s community event featured special giveaways from community partners including pajamas and books for children, musical entertainment, a bounce house, food, and refreshments, a D.A.R.E. cruiser car from the Plainfield Police Department, and a Plainfield Township fire truck. This event was made possible by sponsors such as Horizon, Aetna, United Healthcare, My Twenty-Four, Trinkets Boutique, Spirit of Excellence, AT&T FirstNet Mobility.

Members of the public were able to receive COVID-19 PCR testing and vaccines as well as HIV and Hepatitis testing and screenings. Neighborhood Health’s event focused on using the 2022 National Health Center Week to reach out to the broader corners of the community and to provide education on all the services the Health Center provides, including high quality and affordable, primary care services.

Also present were over 40 nonprofits and community partners providing information and resources, food, prizes, and much, much more.

“Our community health centers are critical to ensuring every New Jersey family—regardless of how much they make or where they live—have access to affordable, quality health care they need.” said Senator Bob Menendez. “As I travel up and down the state, I see firsthand how New Jerseyans benefit from the countless services CHCs provide to women, children, and seniors. I’ll continue fighting to make sure our health centers get the federal resources we need to keep them operating in communities all across our state.”