“What is going on here is very, very special, but it’s no more special than what goes on here every day and at Metropolitan’s two other sites,” said Carissa Lawson, the anchor from News 12 New Jersey, who acted as emcee of National Health Center Week 2012 in Jersey City on Aug. 8. The gathering was part of a network of events being held by the Metropolitan Family Health Network at its Jersey City and West New York sites. Metropolitan Health provides low-cost health care for those who are in need.
Kids dressed in blue, green, red or tan T-shirts, depending on their class and danced in the sunlight outside the Jersey City offices Metropolitan Family Health Network. Recorded music filled the air, and health professionals from dozens of local and regional groups filled tables with brochures, free gifts, even fruit and bottles of water, all part of a kick-off to National Health Center Week 2012.
“Each year there are 50,000 patient visits at Metropolitan which offers a full roster of the finest quality affordable and accessible healthcare including dental and podiatry,” Lawson said. “Most importantly, everything is offered on a sliding scale, and no one is very turned away because they don’t have insurance.”
Metropolitan Family Health Network (MFHN), the area’s premier federally qualified health care center, began its celebration of the week-long event with a special opening ceremony at the organization’s primary site, 935 Garfield Ave. in Jersey City.
Metropolitan has three locations accessible by public transportation from all parts of Hudson County: 935 Garfield Ave., 857 Bergen Ave. in Jersey City, and 5300 Bergenline Ave. in Jersey City. These centers offer services to neighboring communities such as Bayonne, Union City and other parts of Hudson County, officials said.
Benefits from Obamacare
U.S. Senator Robert Menendez said centers like Metropolitan fill a vital need in the community. “This is a local solution and demonstrates how primary care works best, and that it is designed to meet local needs specific to the community,” he said, calling Metropolitan one of “the great health centers” in the state because it delivers high quality healthcare each day to everyone that walks through its doors.
“If you have insurance, if you have Medicaid or Medicare, if you don’t have insurance, you are welcomed here, and you get the care that synonymous with federally-qualified health centers,” he said. “And it’s because of the work done at places like Metropolitan that I have been thrilled to be a champion for federally-qualified health centers.”
Menendez said the week is also a celebration of collective accomplishments.
“We are providing healthcare to millions of people who would not have the ability to get particularly primary care through a great institution like Metropolitan. Too many people wait to go to an emergency room,” he said. Those without insurance or who are underinsured often wait longer than is wise. Getting treatment earlier through centers like Metropolitan, according to Menendez, would have more of a positive impact than getting treatment later.
Menendez also said that President Barack Obama’s Affordable Healthcare Act helped solidify these centers, providing $11 billion for such centers over the next five years, including $66 million that has already reached centers in New Jersey.
“In two more years when the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act goes into effect, federal-quality health centers have to be paid by private insurers just the same as any other provider,” he said.
In celebrating the affordable health care act, Menendez called it a historic law that will provide 1.5 million people who are currently without insurance with some coverage.
“This law forces insurance companies to cover children who are born with defects, cover mothers who are pregnant, and cover children on their parents’ plan through college,” he said. “This law also prohibits insurance companies from charging women twice as much as men, when all other factors are the same,” he said. “No longer can you discriminate against a woman just because of her gender.”
The law also does away with a lifetime cap for coverage of people with a serious illness. He said the future will steer the system towards a preventative healthcare program in which centers like Metropolitan will play a key role.
“This is a local solution and demonstrates how primary care works best, designed to meet local needs specific to the community.” – U.S Senator Robert Menendez
Metropolitan started in the early 1990s as part of the Liberty Healthcare Network, and became an independent entity in 2006, opening its West New York facility that same year. The centers still have a close cooperative agreement with Jersey City Medical Center.
“Each year for National Health Center Week, we plan and hold three days of activities that will be informative, educational and beneficial for our community, and this year is no different,” said MFHN President and Chief Executive Officer Joan Dublin. “This event gives the community a chance to become acquainted with our physicians, nurses and staff as well as the care and services we offer. It also provides all of us at Metropolitan with an opportunity to get to know the people of our area and their health care needs better, too. The 2012 National Health Center Week theme is ‘Celebrating America’s Health Centers: Powering Healthier Communities,’ and that is exactly what we do.”
Dublin said all community health centers are locally owned, accountable and responsive to the needs of the community.
Filling a vital need
Dublin said, “For 46 years, the second week of August has been set aside for recognition of health centers, upstanding contributions to our communities, and the role healthcare centers like ours play in providing affordable, quality cost effective healthcare to all people regardless of their ability to pay. We provide a full roster of care, including dental, mental, substance abuse and pharmacy services.
As well as honoring National Health Care Center, the theme of this year’s week is “Powering Healthier Communities.” The theme underscores how these centers provide access to affordable, high quality, cost-effective healthcare for the medically vulnerable and underserved people throughout the United States.
These centers develop, according to representatives from Metropolitan, strong partnerships with people, governments and community members who work together to meet the unique and diverse health conditions of the community.