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Grants aim to boost kids’ health services
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Grants aim to boost kids’ health services

Dr. Nicole McGrath, a dentist who is the executive director and founder of KinderSmile in Montclair, provides free dental services to needy children through a program funded by the Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey. <span style="line-height: 1.
Dr. Nicole McGrath, a dentist who is the executive director and founder of KinderSmile in Montclair, provides free dental services to needy children through a program funded by the Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey. <span style="line-height: 1.

The Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey is offering $200,000 grants to providers of pediatric services in under-served areas of Newark, East Orange, Orange, Irvington, and parts of West Orange.

The Integrated Pediatric Primary Care Initiative is seeking proposals for projects that upgrade a broad variety of medical, dental, and emotional health services for children in impoverished areas of Essex County, and ensure appropriate pre- and perinatal care for pregnant women and new mothers.

“We don’t have a specific number of grants in mind,” said foundation executive director/CEO Marsha Atkind, “but this speaks to exactly who we are.”

The foundation was established in 1996 with assets from the sale of Newark Beth Israel Medical Center.

“There are enormous gaps in services for children in the greater Essex County area,” Atkind told NJ Jewish News. “If we are going to be a healthy society, we need to raise healthy children and give them the kind of preventive care and wellness care that they will need to thrive.”

Atkind said low-income families have a broad range of health needs that are not being met.

“If a kid needs to go to a psychiatrist and you are rich you can probably find a psychiatrist to see your child. But if you are not, and you have to take them to a clinic, the waiting lists are months long,” she said.

On top of that, many pediatricians are not trained in treating young people with behavioral issues. In addition to giving grants to fund their training, Atkind said, the foundation would like to encourage health-care providers to ensure that children’s behavioral issues are examined as part of their regular medical check-ups. 

Atkins said there are also gaps in dental care and vision screening and prenatal care. 

Nancy Parello, communications director of Advocates for Children of New Jersey, agreed. Her organization presses for a broad range of health, educational, and social services for needy children in the state.

“In New Jersey there is huge disparity between affluent suburban white kids and black and Latino inner-city kids, who are more likely to live in poverty and struggle with health issues, are more likely to struggle in school, and are more likely to be involved with the child protection and juvenile justice systems,” she told NJJN

Her group’s statistics show there are some 50,000 white, 49,000 Latino, and 80,000 African-American children in Essex County. 

Even in the county’s more affluent suburbs, however, children face challenges in the areas of behavioral health.

“Jewish kids have problems just like other kids, and parents can be as blind to those problems or helpless in the face of those problems as parents anywhere else,” Atkind said. “The pediatricians we take our kids to are not necessarily schooled in behavioral health.”

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