NEWARK, NJ — One of the city’s Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) was able to provide much needed COVID-19 testing throughout Newark with a $100,000 award from the New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund (NJPRF).

St James Health Inc., located in the East and West wards, used the grant to open a centrally located walk and drive-through testing site for residents who could not access other testing locations. The health center also deployed workers to perform door-to-door testing in senior buildings, allowing them to stay in the comfort of their own homes. 

The NJPRF grant allowed Saint James to partner with Willing Heart Community Care Center of the Metropolitan Baptist Church, to provide tests to more than 9,500 people. St. James CEO, Nicole Fields, said more than half of those tested were uninsured or undocumented, meaning grant funds were essential to cover costs for those patients. 

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“We have been open every day since the pandemic started, and we haven’t closed any sites or decreased any of our hours. When a lot of providers were moving to telehealth, we weren’t able to because many of our patients are non-compliant and didn’t want to be treated over the phone,” Fields said. 

At COVID’s peak, while hospitals, primary care providers and county testing sites were overwhelmed with patients, FQHCs like St. James proved essential resources to Newark and the surrounding community. The easy-to-access facilities serve patients regardless of insurance, income level or citizenship status, filling a major gap during the pandemic. 

In 2019, Saint James saw a total of 2,800 patients. The Pandemic swelled their patient load and St. James saw 8,700 patients in the first nine months of 2020, a 200% increase in traffic. Thanks to NJPRF, St. James was able to not only test seniors and staff for COVID-19, but examine and treat those unable to leave their apartment, fill overdue prescription medications and connect residents to additional services. 

Fields said that due to the increased traffic, St. James has plans to open a third location and continue its expanded testing into November. The walk and drive-thru testing site will be used to administer the flu vaccine to residents and COVID-19 tests if necessary.

TAPinto Newark is a media sponsor of the New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund