Addabbo Family Health Center Expansion

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Depending on who you ask, healthcare is either a privilege or a right. This designation tends to split people along harsh lines, as is evidenced by the uncertain future of healthcare in the U.S. and the fierce political infighting surrounding it. Yet, despite this uncertainty, one healthcare center is committed to providing high-level quality care to everyone who walks through its doors. Since opening its doors in 1987, the Joseph P. Addabbo Family Health Center’s mission has been to be the leading preventive and comprehensive primary health care provider in New York. Between its six sites throughout New York City, Addabbo Family Health Centers provide quality primary care services like pediatrics, internal medicine, and OB/GYN. Addabbo also provides specialty services like dental, vision, HIV/AIDS services, and physical therapy. Addabbo has always prioritized health for young people. Patients can utilize WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) services as well as gain access to prenatal through adolescent care. Across all six Addabbo sites, the center serves about 50,000 patients a year, which equates to over 230,000 patient visits on average. More than half of those patients are seen in two of Addabbo’s largest branches located right here in Rockaway.

Addabbo Family Health Centers fill a huge need for quality healthcare in New York and especially in the Rockaway community. There is currently only one hospital serving the entire Rockaway Peninsula. Given the community’s dependence on its services, the Arverne branch was approved last year to receive a $17.5 million expansion. The two and a half year project is set to break ground this year and will increase the number of patients that the center can serve, create community meeting space, and expand the medical services that are offered at the Arverne branch, including new physical therapy services. The work is expected to begin in January 2018.

By expanding the Arverne health center, Addabbo is making a commitment to improve the health of the Rockaway community. The expansion effort is being spearheaded by Dr. Marjorie Hill, CEO of Joseph P. Addabbo Family Health Center Inc. Dr. Hill has worked in the healthcare management field for 25 years and is the current chair of the New York State AIDS Advisory. She was formerly the CEO at Gay Men’s Health Crisis, the world’s first HIV/AIDS service organization.

The Rockaway Advocate spoke with Dr. Marjorie Hill about some of the unique challenges that come with serving a traditionally underserved community like the Rockaways. She states, “There’s something about being isolated and separated that influences how one views their options. It’s been my experience that people in the Rockaways think, and it’s true, that they have fewer options. But fewer options is not no options”. She highlighted the spread of services that Addabbo provides and hoped that residents would start to realize that better health can start in their own community. She also discussed the difficulty of getting residents to partake in preventative health care like annual checkups or mammograms as opposed to diagnostic or curative care, which tends to occur after the patient is already exhibiting symptoms. She hopes that by expanding the center, more community members will find their “medical home” at Addabbo and, in turn, create a healthier community. While Addabbo is not a free health clinic, they do not turn away anyone looking to receive care based on inability to pay. Addabbo patients are charged for the medical services they receive based on a sliding scale that takes into account many life factors, including income, insurance status, and household size. No matter what, Addabbo’s specialized staff and insurance marketplace navigators will work with individuals and families to ensure they have access to quality care at an affordable price. The Arverne center also has a pharmacy on site, streamlining the prescription process and often resulting in cheaper prescription costs for many of their patients.

Dr. Hill also discussed the relationship between health and issues like food access, crime rates, and the state of local infrastructure and how these factors impact Rockaway residents. The fact that Far Rockaway is a federally-labeled food desert means that residents often have to rely on unhealthy food options, like fast food chains or local delis, due to a severe lack of access to fresh, organic produce. Because of this, Rockaway suffers from disproportionately high rates of negative health outcomes that result from poor diet like heart disease, obesity, and diabetes when compared to city-wide averages. Dr. Hill stresses the importance of healthy food access to overall health, remarking that “If people have access to fruits and vegetables - and by access, I mean you don’t have to go four miles for an apple - that automatically factors in to one’s health and one’s health outcome. The healthier I eat, the healthier I’ll be”.

She goes on to point out that one’s ability or willingness to exercise and be active outdoors directly corresponds to both the physical state of local public infrastructure, like parks and sidewalks, as well as residents’ perceptions of neighborhood safety and crime risk. “Similarly, exercise is really important. If I feel like it’s okay for my kids to go run in the park and burn off energy, that’s a good thing. But if the park is dilapidated, or doesn’t exist, or is a drug hangout, then I’m not going to take my kids there. So, my kids, instead of burning off energy, are sitting in front of the TV and not getting any exercise”. Dr. Hill also acknowledges that seniors face particular health challenges when confronting factors like crime rates and infrastructure disrepair or neglect, “It’s really good for seniors to walk. But if the sidewalks are messed up, it becomes a challenge if they have ambulatory impediments. They will worry if it’s really safe. They’d rather be alive and unhealthy than dead. Even if safety is not a factor, if they believe it is, they’re not going out”.

Given the unique challenges that the Rockaways face, the expansion is a welcome addition. On top of increasing positive health outcomes for local residents, the expansion will also improve the economic health of the community. On average, 70 percent of Addabbo staff members live in the communities in which they work, and this expansion is slated to add 30 new jobs in the community. During construction, the center is committed to hiring local workers and nearly 40 percent of their subcontractors are from minority or women owned businesses. Addabbo is also partnering with the Ocean Bay Community Development Center to create a job training program. Ocean Bay does a significant amount of job training on their own and through this partnership, they will have access to a new computer lab to train residents to be medical billers, phone operators, and medical assistants. Addabbo will provide the necessary internship opportunities for the trainees with hopes of creating a qualified local hiring pool for full-time positions.

From its long history in the community and its dedicated partnerships with residents and local organizations, it’s clear that the Joseph P. Addabbo Family Health Center takes a holistic approach to health care and is looking to improve both the physical and the economic health of the community. For more information about their services or scheduling an appointment, please visit www.addabbo.org or call 718-945-7150.