Health-care center awaits building
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Health-care center awaits building

Wyckoff resident Janet Finke says she has been working for the past two years to "sell a dream." And, she says, when the right building comes along, that dream will become a reality.

In partnership with dozens of volunteers from Bergen County, led by Dr. Samuel Cassell, also of Wyckoff, Finke is helping to create the Bergen Volunteer Medical Initiative, a facility that will provide free primary medical care to residents of Bergen County with no health insurance and with incomes between 100 percent and ’00 percent of the federal poverty level. (At below 100 percent of the poverty level, people are entitled to receive Medicaid, Finke points out.)

According to Finke, the number of people who might benefit from the center continues to rise. Of the 885,000 people who live in Bergen County, she said, about 10 percent have no medical insurance; and about 30,000 of them do not qualify for Medicaid.

"You hear so much now about people not having insurance," she said. "The need is becoming more dire. People lose jobs and go in and out of the [health care] system."

The medical center will be up and running as soon as the group locates a suitable physical plant, says Finke, immediate past vice chair of the group and co-chair of fund-raising. A member of Barnert Temple in Franklin Lakes, Finke, who has been involved in health and social services, including Jewish Family Service, for many years as both a professional and a volunteer, pointed out that several BVMI volunteers and organizational leaders are fellow congregants. Included in this group are Cassell, Marilyn Schotz of Ridgewood, Ken Herman of Wyckoff, Peter Schwartz of Allendale, and Les Ivany of Oakland.

According to Finke, what began as a "word of mouth" venture, slowly winning recognition and mention in a variety of journals, soon evolved into a cadre of targeted committees, tackling areas from licensing requirements to medical equipment to pharmaceuticals.

Today, with a newly elected board of 13 trustees (and room, says Finke, for an additional eight), BVMI has secured 501(c) (3) tax status, rendering donations to the project fully tax-deductible, and dozens of doctors and nurses are standing by to volunteer their time to the project.

In addition, she said, six area hospitals — Bergen Regional, Englewood Hospital, Hackensack University Medical Center, Holy Name Hospital, Pascack Valley Hospital, and Valley Hospital — have agreed to make their X-ray facilities available to BVMI’s clients, and Quest Diagnostics will contribute its lab services.

According to BVMI’s end-of year newsletter, ‘006 "ended on a high note." The venture was awarded a $40,000 planning grant from the Horizon Foundation for New Jersey, one of 16 independent and federally qualified community health-care centers in the state to receive funding.

"This will give us credibility with other grant-making institutions," said Finke, who added that fund-raising for the project has been going well. "We got three good kick-off gifts and have also received a challenge grant of $’5,000," she said. Matching contributions must be made by July 31.

While BVMI leaders had hoped that the state or county would make a building available at a low cost, she said, that has not occurred, and the group is now looking at private properties. The organization is "hoping for an angel" to help them with this, she said.

Finke said BVMI will need to choose a site that is readily accessible, ideally along the Route 4 corridor and within easy reach of public transportation. According to the group’s newsletter, it is seeking about 3,000 to 5,000 square feet.

When it’s up and running, the Bergen County medical facility will offer primary care for adults and children, office gynecology, and simple, non-surgical procedures. If possible, said Finke, BVMI will also provide dental services.

Finke said that BVMI will ask clients for some proof of income but will not do stringent income checks. "It will be similar to JFS," she said. "We’ll ask, ‘What do you think you can afford?’"

Finke said she believes it will "even out."

"We’ll get some cheaters," she added, "but we’ll also get a lot of people who really need help."

For further information about BVMI, visit www.bvmi.org

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