By Bill Parry
Jackson Heights will be getting a new community health center and one of the two facilities in Corona will be expanded as part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s new Caring Neighborhoods initiative. The new program will spend $20 million over the next two years increasing primary care for thousands of residents in underserved neighborhoods across New York City.
Spearheaded by the city Health and Hospitals Corporation and the city Economic Development Corp., Caring Neighborhoods will target high-need neighborhoods that lack adequate access to medical care. Over 100,000 new patients will be able to receive care in their own neighborhoods, regardless of their ability to pay.
“Every New Yorker deserves equal access to health care, but poor access to care across the city is contributing to the wide disparities in the health of New Yorkers,” de Blasio said. “While people in some parts of the city can walk to urgent care centers down the block, if you live in (others) and wake up with a fever, chances are you have to get on the subway to go see a primary care doctor, or go wait for hours at the nearest hospital emergency room. Caring Neighborhoods closes these unacceptable disparities by increasing access to health care, contributing to a stronger and healthier city for all.”
Several neighborhoods will be targeted for new and expanded health care services, including Flushing, Jamaica and Astoria. The targeted communities were determined to have both the need for primary care and the ability to support health center growth, according to a city-commissioned report by the Community Health Care Association of New York State.
“Many of our city’s residents do not have accessible and affordable primary care services in their neighborhoods and this initiative will help change that paradigm,” City Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria) said. “Quality health care is important as our communities grow and flourish.”
Broadening HHC’s patient base and increasing its focus on primary care will help the struggling public hospital system stabilize financially.
“Strong primary care is a highly effective and efficient way to keep people healthy and help them avoid the chronic diseases that decrease their quality of life and sap our city of its most important resource: its people,” HHC President Dr. Ram Raju said. “We believe that by doing this and serving more New Yorkers we also strengthen the city’s incredible public health care system.”
It will also put HHC in better position to meet the goals of the state’s Medicaid reform plans. If the centers can successfully contribute to projects aimed at improving health care outcomes and reducing hospitalizations, they will receive a portion of the $8 billion the federal government has set aside for the program.
“For too long, access to health care was dependent on socio-economic background and geographical location, deterring many in underserved areas from seeking out physicians,” state Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Flushing) said. “In my own district, not only will greater access to primary care be vital in ensuring the health of our families, but it will also lead to fewer people relying on the already heavily tolled hospitals and emergency rooms.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr