Bergen Volunteer Medical Initiative (BVMI)—a licensed nonprofit healthcare center that provides free primary care to uninsured, low-income, working Bergen County residents—recently opened the doors of its new 5,000 sq. ft. facility, and is looking for new patients and volunteers as its operation expands.
The new Lynn Diamond Healthcare Center at 75 Essex Street in Hackensack, which is named after a long-time supporter who donated $1 million to the initiative, is an upgrade from the organization’s previous 3,500 sq. ft. space in downtown Hackensack, which is currently undergoing revitalization.
“We had completely grown out of our space that we were in,” said BVMI President and CEO Amanda Missey. “We’re in a much bigger space and we can serve a lot more patients.”
BVMI serves about 1,000 patients annually, and has a team of 55 licensed volunteer medical professionals who help treat those patients. BVMI’s free healthcare is available for adults living in Bergen County who are working, don’t have health insurance, don’t qualify for Medicaid or Medicare and earn 300 percent or less of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.
The new Lynn Diamond Healthcare Center contains six exam rooms, a dedicated diabetes education room, a consult room and an additional private space for eligibility interviews and other uses. Across the hall from the clinic is 1,500 sq. ft. of administrative space utilized by the nonprofit.
“It’s big. All our volunteers and staff keep saying how quiet it is because we’re not on top of each other anymore. So really what that leads to is better care for our patients,” Missey said of the new facility. “We also have a beautiful waiting room, really nice reception area, private discharge windows [and] we have a lab.”
BVMI’s former landlord—Greater Bergen Community Action—provided about $300,000 in funding to construct the new building, according to Missey. The rest of the funds came from donations and a successful capital campaign, which means the organization is “debt-free,” Missey says.
As for the transition process, Missey says it went “almost too smoothly.” Despite the March 14 blizzard delaying opening by one day and some difficulties with parking around the facility, the moving process has otherwise “gone off without a hitch,” she says.
Doors opened and service began for patients at the new facility on March 15, 2017. The official grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony was on May 21, and was attended by Hackensack Mayor John Labrosse, as well as New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Cathleen Bennett, who was a guest speaker at the event.
With plenty of space at their new health center, BVMI’s next step is to recruit more patients and more volunteers.
“One of the things that we’ve been doing is a very targeted outreach effort in Englewood. At the end of 2015, we only had 38 patients from Englewood. We have about 400 from Hackensack—demographics are similar in a lot of ways so we knew that there were more people that could use our services there, but they probably didn’t know about us so we’ve had an outreach coordinator there,” Missey explained. She said the organization has been reaching out to businesses, churches and fellow nonprofits to help them spread the word and encourage more working, income-eligible residents to take advantage of BVMI’s services. The initiative has resulted in a 50 percent increase in patients.
The initiative is also looking for more volunteer medical professionals who are licensed in New Jersey.
“As we get more patients, we’ll need more volunteers, so we’re looking for doctors, nurse practitioners [and] nurses,” Missey said. “This is a really wonderful place for people who are either thinking about retiring, have semi-retired or have retired already because we practice what we call ‘slow medicine.’ People get to spend a lot of times with patients here and our volunteers really love it.”
Additionally, as it receives no payment from patients or insurance companies, and no government funding, the nonprofit is always looking for donors. BVMI’s biggest annual fundraising event, their anniversary gala, will be held on September 13, 2017 at the Indian Trail Club. The initiative will be celebrating its 8th year since it first began serving patients in the fall of 2009.