For more than 35 years, Joseph P. Addabbo Family Health Center (Addabbo), a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), has been providing high-quality, accessible, and cost-effective healthcare to residents of New York. The organization has five health centers located in Arverne, Far Rockaway, Jamaica, Brooklyn, and Southeast Queens.
“We’re a New York City health center, but we’re actually very rural in a way,” says Miriam Y. Vega, PhD, Chief Executive Officer at Addabbo. “We’re the only FQHC in Far Rockaway. We’re in Red Hook, where there’s only one bus line. We truly are a community health center.”
The majority of Addabbo’s patients are on Medicaid and living below the poverty line, but throughout the pandemic, the center cared for many working class individuals and families — many of whom were frontline workers and in need of COVID-19 testing and vaccinations. In 2021 alone, the center served 37,000 unique patients.
Primary care, adult medicine, gynecology, and dental services are considered Addabbo’s core services, but the center also provides other specialities like behavioral health, asthma and allergy, endocrinology, pediatric care, and women’s health services.
Elevating Whole-Person Care
Addabbo has received the highest level of recognition for its ongoing commitment to improving care quality and the patient experience. A certified patient-centered medical home (PCMH), Addabbo must show sustained and continued improvements in data reporting, clinical measures, and other factors to renew their recognition.
“The more services we have available, the better,” says Ari Benjamin, MD, Chief Medical Officer at Addabbo. “Being a PCMH level III, we’re following a model that ensures we’re taking care of the entire patient, not just their medical needs. This allows us to explore all areas of a patient and be a center where all of those issues can be addressed in some capacity.”
One of the ways Addabbo identifies and treats high-risk patients is by conducting a risk stratification using technology and data pulled from EHRs and insurance companies. This helps the organization identify high-cost, high-risk, high-utilization patients to ensure that these patients are prioritized and getting increased attention and care.
“We’re treating the whole person,” says Dr. Vega. “It’s everything from having the patient meet with case managers who address food or housing insecurity to having huddles across the providers to make sure the patient is seen in their entirety.”
Unlike other FQHCs, Addabbo works with patients of all ages, including newborns and toddlers. They staff at least one OB/GYN provider who is knowledgeable in prenatal care at every location and they work closely with women of all ages, supporting prenatal, postnatal, and menopausal care. They also offer a Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children. One of the goals of the organization is to promote healthy living, in conjunction with medical care, to help patients achieve optimal health and well-being.
Providing a Safe Space for the Community
Addabbo isn’t just a health center; it's a go-to place for community members. On any given day, you’ll hear people talking about “what happened over at Addabbo,” because so many people are connected to the organization and its people. One patient, in her 40s, visited Addabbo throughout her childhood and is now bringing her own children to Addabbo.
This level of connection is unmatchable. When Addabbo lost a provider to COVID-19 in 2020, the organization saw an outpour of love from its community. “It was eye opening to see how connected we are,” Dr. Benjamin says.
Far Rockaway saw one of the first cases of COVID-19 in New York City. Addabbo acted quickly and with compassion, understanding the pressing needs of patients. In addition to providing quality medical, behavioral, and health services, the center also developed telehealth services and did outreach to combat misinformation by visiting Town Hall meetings and outreaching to local establishments like bodegas to distribute valuable information on both HIV and COVID-19.
“A lot of people got COVID and kept providing. We worked together and really launched an impressive telehealth program, coordinating with IT, providers, front desk staff, and other staff to make sure that we were really able to take care of our patients during the pandemic,” says Dr. Benjamin.
“We are patient centered and we do have a lot of services as well as a great staff from the community, all of whom are very dedicated to providing this care.”
Looking Toward a More Equitable Future
“COVID increased trust in the local provider, but increased mistrust in the larger system. We had to be that bridge between the government and the community and I think that role is going to stay going forward,” says Dr. Vega. “People now really have a sense of the importance of community health centers.”
In the coming year, Addabbo will focus on expanding its behavioral health and dental services. The organization will also increase outreach efforts around screenings, as so many patients missed their regular visits during the pandemic and are now at risk of developing or already experiencing symptoms of cancer or another physical illness. In addition, Addabbo is expanding its Far Rockaway building and developing a new space for pediatric dental care.
Addabbo has been able to support patients throughout their care journey – and the organization makes it a priority to ensure that all community members get access to the services they need, when they need them, even in emergency situations.
“Every day I’m amazed when I look at our productivity reports. We serve 500 people every day,” says Dr. Benjamin. “We owe it to them to be the best versions of ourselves that we can be.”
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