The Parker Family Health Center, founded in 2000, is a volunteer-based free clinic for the uninsured, serving Monmouth County in central New Jersey. Open six days a week, the clinic logs over 10,000 patient visits annually, with over 80,000 cumulative visits over its 10-year history. Health care is provided by a network of 200 volunteers—medical professionals and others—who donate 10,000 hours of service annually to help those in need in the local community.
The clinic provides comprehensive primary health care, with a focus on preventive care, chronic disease management and health education. In-house services include women’s health; a children’s health and dental clinic; diabetes and hypertension management; cancer screening; vision screening; employment and school physicals; adult and child immunizations; legal assistance and social service referrals; and assistance with insurance eligibility.
A 2007 grant from the Charles Lafitte Foundation supported Parker’s busy pediatric program, which is intended to give vulnerable children the best possible start in life. All children receive well-child physicals, including all recommended vaccines, and dental treatment. While most children are healthy, some children have serious medical conditions requiring specialized care, and the clinic seeks to arrange appropriate treatment for children who otherwise would suffer significant health-driven disabilities.
One of those children was referred to Parker when his kindergarten teacher noticed his difficulty with small-motor tasks, and the school nurse advised a complete physical evaluation. A volunteer pediatrician at Parker diagnosed homocystinuria, an inherited metabolic disorder than can cause mental retardation, vision problems and other lifelong issues. The Parker staff was able to secure specialty treatment for the child at St. Peter’s Hospital, one of eight New Jersey hospitals certified to care for seriously ill children. Now 10 years old, he is doing well in school and continues to come to Parker for primary care.
Facts and figures about children’s health services at the Parker Family Health Center in 2010 follow:
- 203 individual children received care at the Parker Center.The clinic provided 129 well-child physical examinations.
- 371 vaccines were administered, including the HPV vaccine and the Hepatitis B series.
- 80 children received preventive dental care.
- 15 percent of those children had dental problems treated by local dentists.29 children saw an eye doctor for vision care.
- 15 children were diagnosed with health conditions that required specialty care and were referred to medical specialists, including cardiologists, endocrinologists, nutrition counselors and others.
In 2011, among Parker’s new initiatives is an outreach program sponsored by United Way of Monmouth County and carried out with the Red Bank elementary and middle schools. Parker will be working with the school system to identify uninsured children who do not qualify for Medicaid or other public programs. Making dental health accessible to underserved children is a primary focus of the project.