NJ Foundation Extends Grant Program for Nonprofit Health Centers

Beth Fitzgerald | February 9, 2012 | Health Care
Horizon Foundation pledges $2 million, encourages applications from 'patient-centered medical homes'

The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey is extending its grant program for nonprofit community health centers by two years, but this time it is specifically looking to fund “patient-centered medical homes,” as well as clinics led by nurse practitioners.

The foundation, the philanthropic arm of Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, has awarded more than $5 million in the past five years to community health centers that treat the state’s uninsured and underserved populations. It plans to commit another $2 million to the program, funding it to 2014, when the federal Affordable Care Act will take effect. ACA will provide health coverage to thousands of uninsured by expanding Medicaid and awarding federal subsidies to defray costs.

At that point, the foundation will assess whether the nonprofit centers need continued financial support, according to John Pearson, the foundation’s director of corporate philanthropy and community affairs. He expects that even though ACA will reduce the ranks of the uninsured, health centers will remain a critical part of the state’s healthcare infrastructure.

“There are still going to be individuals who are vulnerable,” he said, “and these health centers really provide a safety net in pockets around the state.” New Jersey’s uninsured and underserved population is estimated at 1.3 million.

In the new round of grants, Horizon is encouraging applications from patient-centered medical homes, which focus on preventive care and coordination of patient medical treatments. The foundation is also looking to fund clinics led by nurse practitioners or advanced practice nurses. APNs have master’s degrees and are licensed to deliver medical care and prescribe medication without being supervised by a doctor. (APNs do consult with physicians on medication issues, when necessary.)

With the state in need of some 1,500 primary care physicians, Pearson indicated that “nurse-managed centers are a great way to deliver care.”

The $5 million given out during the past five years was awarded through competitive grants to 22 nonprofit health centers around New Jersey. Pearson said the grants have “provided services to more than 340,000 patients, and saved millions of dollars in reduced hospital emergency room visits.”

About half of the centers funded in the first round were “federally qualified health centers,” which are designated as safety net community healthcare providers by the federal government.

Kathy Grant Davis is president of the New Jersey Primary Care Association, whose members are the state’s 20 FQHCs, which deliver services at 105 locations. Davis said the two-year funding extension by Horizon is welcome news. “I am so pleased that the Horizon Foundation is once again supporting” the FQHCs, which she said “have shown time and time again that they provide a quality service to those who need health-care in a cost-effective manner.”

Gary Linington is executive director of Asbury Park-based Visiting Nurse Association of Central Jersey Community Health Center, an FQHC that received $250,000 over the past five years from the foundation, and intends to apply again in the new round. The center saw 10,000 patients last year in four locations in Monmouth County.

Linington said the center employs APNs and physicians, working collaboratively. “We love nurse practitioners and when we can find them we hire them,” he said. He said the Horizon grant “was crucial to providing certain services that we couldn’t provide” otherwise. He said the center provides care regardless of the patient’s ability to pay, and many patients are uninsured or underinsured.

The St. John’s Health and Family Service Center in New Brunswick received a $50,000 grant last year and will apply again in the new round, according to Monsignor Sylvester Cronin, executive director for stewardship and development for the Diocese of Metuchen. He said the center provides primary medical care to about 900 people “who are the most vulnerable among us and who otherwise would seek treatment in a hospital emergency room, or not receive care at all.”

According to Cronin, the patients “are at or below the poverty level” and most are uninsured. He said he expected the need for the clinic, which gets more than 6,000 visits a year, to continue after 2014: “We are still going to be here. We are still going to be serving those in the most need. I see us being very present in 2014.”

The deadline for grant application is March 15, and applications must be submitted online. Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey is the state’s largest health insurer.