Congressman Chris Smith (Robbinsville, NJ) spoke at a ribbon-cutting for the newly-renovated Ocean Health Initiatives, Inc., a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), on 2nd Street in Lakewood, Ocean County, N.J. Smith helped the facility, which served over 23,700 patients in 2011, obtain its FQHC designation in order to meet area health care needs of the town of 93,000 residents, seventh largest in New Jersey.
Smith spoke to the crowd at the ceremony, then later toured the facility, speaking with doctors, the project architect and community leaders at the April 20 event. The building, formerly a two-story structure, was expanded with two additional floors built on top of the existing structure. The original building was reinforced with steel and concrete to support the expansion, according to the architect, Joseph Saphire, of Pennington, N.J.
Congressman Smith's statement:
"Good Morning. Thank you Dr. Berger for that introduction and for inviting me to join with you, Senator Menendez, Senator Singer, Mayor Miller, Board Chairman Sherard, Mr. Rod and everyone here in celebrating the Grand Re-opening of this great health care facility.
"Right up-front, I would like to recognize and to thank you Dr. Berger and your dedicated staff here in Lakewood and in all of Ocean Health Initiatives' other facilities for your dedication and the great work you do for residents of the communities you serve, who otherwise would not have access to the high-quality health care which you so compassionately provide, regardless of an individual's ability to pay.
"The uninsured, underinsured and other residents of Ocean County who choose to use your facilities are truly blessed to have access to comprehensive primary and preventative health care, including much needed dental care and social services, as well as medical care for persons at all stages of life.
"I remember meeting in my office on November 16, 2004 with representatives of OHI and the then Administrator of the Heath Resources and Services Administration, Dr. Betty Duke, to make the case directly to her about the critical need and importance of designating OHI as a Section 330 Federally Qualified Health Center. On April 11, 2005, HRSA announced that OHI was selected to receive a "new access point" grant of nearly $2 million over three years.
"Since that time, it has been gratifying over the years to see OHI advance its mission of providing quality health care to the neediest populations in Ocean County. I was pleased in August of 2009 to write to HRSA's new Administrator, who is still there today, Dr. Mary Wakefield, in support of OHI's outstanding application for a Facility Investment Program Grant. Because HRSA recognized the growing need here in Ocean County, the record of excellent services being provided by OHI, and the quality of their application, OHI was again selected for a grant and we are here today.
"In 2011, nearly 24,000 individual patients were thankful for almost 80,000 encounters to receive care at OHI facilities, including bringing close to 1,000 babies into the world. And now we are here to celebrate the opening of this beautiful, and more importantly functional, renovated and expanded facility. The addition of two stories, including 20 new exam rooms and a new OB/GYN and pediatric wing, as well as improvements to existing space, will allow OHI to continue to meet the challenges of the still growing need here in Lakewood and the surrounding community.
"Again, Dr. Berger, you and your staff should be commended for what you do to maintain and restore the health and dignity of your neighbors, of all ages, who depend on your compassionate care. Thank you."