NEWARK, NJ — City and congressional officials today stood at the site of a future health center in the West Ward to announce $1.3 million in federal funding for the facility.

The new Saint James Federally Qualified Health Center -- the second for the city -- is expected to open by early next year, said Saint James Health CEO Nicole Fields. The center will be located across from West Side High School in what is now a vacant lot.

"The ward is really moving and that's because of partnerships that have been created amongst us -- amongst the county and the federal government and the local government,” said West Ward Councilman Joseph McCallum, Jr. as he stood with U.S. Sens. Bob Menendez and Cory Booker.

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Federally Qualified Health Centers provide primary care services on a sliding scale based on a person's ability to pay. The East Ward’s Ironbound section saw its own Saint James health center open in 2016 after the Saint James Hospital shuttered in 2008.

Menendez in February voted for the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, which restored $7.8 billion for the National Health Center Program for the next two years.

"Right now we know there aren't many primary care providers in this neighborhood,” Menendez said. “As a result, many folks head to the Beth Israel emergency room whenever they needed care. That's not sustainable for anyone.

“We know when people have to rely on emergency rooms just to see a doctor, it's stressful, it's expensive and it drives up the cost for everyone."

Booker, the city’s former mayor, voted no to the complex budget bill because it didn't include protections for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, more commonly known as DACA. He called the new health center “a win” for the city at today’s press conference.

"I'm happy today that we're here to talk about a win,” Booker said. “Yet again, in the City of Newark, we are turning despair into hope.”

Booker also voted no to a $1.6 billion omnibus spending package that -- in part -- secured additional funding for the health centers. However, he did sign a request calling on a congressional subcommittee to include funding for the program. 

Saint James Health also operates two exam rooms in the Central Ward for homeless health care, said Fields, the center’s CEO. Residents in the West Ward currently have to take multiple buses to get to the Ironbound facility, she said.

"The expansion into the West Ward is long awaited," said Fields. "The new site will bring full-spectrum primary care to more residents of Newark and the surrounding communities."

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