CAMDEN, NJ — Elected officials and leaders in health services came together Monday morning at Project H.O.P.E., a Camden care center for the homeless, to mark the start of New Jersey National Health Center Week.
Running this year from Aug. 4 to 10 under the theme “Celebrating America’s Health Centers: Rooted in Communities," the annually-observed week is aimed at raising awareness of the mission and accomplishments of the country's federally qualified health centers (FQHCs).
These are community-based healthcare providers that cover underserved areas through funding from the Health Resources and Services Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Among those who attended the Camden kickoff were U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ 13), Camden County Sheriff Whip Wilson, Camden City Councilmember-At-Large Sheila Davis, individuals from the New Jersey Primary Care Association, and Dr. Anthony C. Ferreri, the regional director of HHS Region II.
The community event featured a news conference, followed by medical and dental screenings, and entertainment.
Patricia DeShields, CEO and executive director of Project H.O.P.E., said the organization is excited to reflect on its achievements thus far and looks forward to the road ahead.
“I am privileged to lead Project H.O.P.E. and participate in the work of community health centers," DeShields said. “Since their birth in the 1960s, community health centers have been leaders in the movement to identify and address the impact of environmental and social factors on health and well-being."
In New Jersey, federally qualified health centers serve an ever-increasing number of patients, currently reaching more than half a million people. Health centers each year celebrate their patients and the ability to provide access to affordable care.
The 21 counties in the state are covered by two dozen FQHCs that provide primary, medical, dental, behavioral health, and substance use disorder treatment services.
“Federally qualified health centers represent the best of America," said Jillian Hudspeth, president and CEO of NJPCA. "Regardless of your color, economic status, background, or religion, FQHCs are here to provide the quality healthcare services that communities need and deserve. We are proud to co-host the National Health Center Week kick-off this year with Project H.O.P.E. In all 21 counties, 24 FQHCs provide medical, dental, behavioral health, and substance use disorder treatment services to over half a million patients and make New Jersey healthier as a result.”
Focusing on the efforts of Project H.O.P.E. in the city, Sen. Menendez said he could not think of any organization more connected to Camden or "more responsive to the needs of its most vulnerable residents."
“Whether patients are struggling with mental health or substance abuse disorders or looking for cost-effective prenatal, pediatric, and primary care, or struggling with homelessness and have nowhere else to turn, Project H.O.P.E.’s doors are open to all,” Menendez said.
Many NHCW events are scheduled in the state and across the country this week, including health fairs, visits by members of Congress and state officials to local health centers, back-to-school drives, community breakfasts, patient appreciation events, and free health screenings.
“The HHS investment in Camden’s Project H.O.P.E., and over a thousand other health centers nationwide, is an example of an extraordinary partnership that provides service to 1 in 12 Americans,” Ferreri said. “Project H.O.P.E. is on the front lines of community health, providing over 25,000 patient treatments annually and this week we applaud that service, and the good work of all community health centers.”