The region’s first and only LGBTQ Health Center was unveiled at a ribbon-cutting ceremony on August 9th at the Visiting Nurse Association of Central Jersey Community Health Center in Asbury Park. Over 130 people including staff, local politicians, residents and friends celebrated the Visiting Nurse Association Health Group Prevention Resource Network’s new program will provide a range of health care services addressing the special needs of the LGBTQ community.

Christopher Menschner, Assistant Commissioner, Division of HIV, STD and TB Services at the New Jersey Department of Health; Jackie Cornell, M.P.A.P. Principal Deputy Commissioner; Shannon Preston, MSW, Director of HIV Community Services; Kristine McCoy, MD, MPH, VNA Health Group Children and Family Health Institute; and Tom Thees, Executive Director of VNACJ Community Health Center.A grant from the New Jersey Department of Health, Division of HIV, STD, and TB Services made the center possible.  “Equity in healthcare is essential if we want to improve health outcomes for all residents, no matter who you love or how you identify,” said Department of Health Principal Deputy Commissioner Jackie Cornell. “Governor Murphy, New Jersey Health Commissioner Shereef Elnahal, and I are committed to increasing access to high-quality, integrated healthcare for the LGBTQ community. We know members of LGBTQ communities are more likely to experience difficulty accessing culturally competent and inclusive health care. I am confident that the dedicated team of doctors and staff here will provide comprehensive services to serve the LGBTQ population in this region with the dignity they justly deserve.”

Joining Shannon Preston, Director of HIV Community Services at VNA Health Group, to talk about the Center’s importance to the community were Asbury Park Mayor John Moor, Deputy Mayor Amy Quinn, and.  A proclamation was presented by New Jersey State Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling and letters of support were given by Senator Cory Booker and Congressman Frank Pallone.

The new LGBTQ Center, to be located in the same building as the VNACJ Community Health Center located at 1302 Main Street in Asbury Park, will be open two evenings per week and Saturday afternoon. Initially, STD testing Rapid HIV and syphilis testing, PrEP Counseling and primary HIV care will be offered. Services will expand soon to include primary care, behavioral health services and Transgender health services. The VNACJ Community Health Center will continue its regular weekday and Saturday morning hours of operation providing affordable primary care for the community. These additional services are also available to the LGBTQ+ community, including dental care, chiropractic, nutrition counseling, and podiatry.

“Disparities in healthcare still exist within the LGBTQ+ community causing many to delay or ignore their healthcare needs,” said Ms. Preston,. “We are very excited to have this opportunity to provide a culturally competent healthcare setting.”

The celebration of the new center continued as guests and supporters attended Mid-Summer Evening Friend and Fundraiser at the Tides Hotel hosted by general manager Ryan Jimenez. Institute Advisory Board Member and Asbury Park resident Finn Brigham in speaking with the attendees about the evolution of the LGBTQ program at the VNA, the needs of the community and the importance of the Center’s future growth and excellence.

About Prevention Resource Network

Prevention Resource Network (PRN), a program provided by Visiting Nurse Association Health Group, provides high-impact prevention services to assist both HIV negative and HIV positive persons who are at risk for HIV transmission or acquisition to reduce risk behaviors. PRN is funded by the NJ Department of Health, Division of HIV, STD and TB Services. For more information, visit http://prnvnacj.org/.

About Visiting Nurse Association of Central Jersey Community Health Center

Visiting Nurse Association of Central Jersey Community Health Center Inc. (VNACJ CHC), a Federally Qualified Health Center, has provided comprehensive primary and preventive health care for infants, children, and adults of Monmouth County for more than 20 years. The VNACJ CHC’s are conveniently located in Asbury Park, Keyport and Red Bank. In 2017, staff provided more than 29,099 visits to more than 9,232 patients. For more information about VNACJ CHC please visit www.vnachc.org.

About Visiting Nurse Association Health Group and VNA Health Group Foundation

Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) Health Group is the largest independent, nonprofit provider of home-based health services in New Jersey and mid-Ohio. Founded over 105 years ago with a mission to care for the community, today VNA Health Group helps individuals and families achieve their best level of health and well-being by providing high quality, compassionate home health care, hospice, palliative and community-based care and offering private-pay personal care services. A full range of primary-care services are available through VNACJ Community Health Centers. Currently, VNA Health Group employs nearly than 2,500 individuals and cares for over 150,000 individuals and families annually with a special focus on vulnerable populations such as children, older adults and those with serious and disabling chronic illness. Our unique partnership model with health systems leverages our clinical and technical resources to operate VNA of Central Jersey Home Care and Hospice, Robert Wood Johnson Visiting Nurses, VNA of Englewood, Barnabas Health Home Care and Hospice, Visiting Physician Services, and Visiting Nurse Association of Ohio. VNA Health Group has relied on charitable support from the community to ensure the continuation of its vital programs and services for every patient in need as well as enhanced programs for hospice patients and their families. While reimbursement from state and federal funding sources are crucial to providing programs for vulnerable populations, it is often not enough. The VNA Health Group Foundation works with individuals, corporations, foundations and volunteers to raise needed funds through a variety of programs including thrift shops, special events, planned gifts, capital campaigns, memorial gifts and major gifts. Contributions to VNA Health Group Foundation can be made by cash, check (made payable to VNA Health Group Foundation), pledge, credit card, appreciated property/securities, corporate matching gifts, planned gifts, or online at www.vnahg.org/giving. For more information about VNA Health Group and the VNAHG Foundation please call 800.862.3330, visit www.vnahg.org and follow us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/VNAHealthGroup or @VNAHealthGroup.