The article originally appeared on nj.com.
A newly expanded health center will focus on decreasing the city's infant mortality rate and improving women's health, officials who gathered its ribbon cutting ceremony said Thursday.
Councilman Anibal Ramos Jr. joined U.S. Reps. Albio Sires and Donald Payne Jr., Councilman-at-large Luis Quintana and others to cut a ribbon at the newly expanded Newark Community Health Centers.
"Seventy-one percent of (Newark) children live in low-income families," Pamela Clarke, the Newark Community Health Centers' President and CEO, said in a phone interview.
"Women are often at the forefront of healthcare in their homes. They are the ones leading their families in terms of healthcare, and they are the ones having children in these conditions. (So we) are really targeting women in the community."
The NCHC celebrated its grand reopening Thursday after a $12 million renovation of the North Ward facility. The NCHC, which opened in 1986 and operates seven locations around Essex County, is a federally qualified health center. It offers a sliding fee scale based on income, free pregnancy testing, reduced rate prescriptions, and programs to treat undocumented city residents.
"We treat all people, with or without insurance, regardless of their ability to pay," Clarke said.
The facility's expansion was funded by a federal grant allocated under the Affordable Care Act. Newark Councilman Anibal Ramos said he has been working with the facility on its expansion since the city gifted a piece of property on Broadway to the NCHC to operate a "state-of-the-art" health center.
"It's one of the most modern medical facilities I've seen," Ramos said in an interview.
"Outreach is very important in a city like Newark, that has a shortage of primary care physicians...(Now) we are putting together an open house to (introduce) community leaders to the facility."
Thanks to the renovation, the center – which is dubbed a "one-stop shop" and includes doctor's offices, dentists, pediatricians, OBGYNs, and mental health facilities – has grown from eight exams rooms to 24. It is also increasing its capacity threefold, up to about 65,000 patients a year.
Officials said the facility should help combat common health problems among children and adults in Newark.
"Even in the 21st Century, health disparities are stark, especially in African-American communities, where life expectancies are lower and infant mortality rates are higher than among white Americans," Congressman Donald Payne, who attended the ribbon cutting, said in a statement.
"Newark Community Health Centers has demonstrated the success of engaging with our community to get people the affordable, quality, and timely care they need to live healthy lives. It is a testament to how important and powerful preventive care really is."
Jessica Mazzola may be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @JessMazzola. Find NJ.com on Facebook.