Devasted Brooklyn Health Center Continues Care

An urgent shipment of medicines and supplies arrived this afternoon at Direct Relief’s newest health center partner, Joseph P. Addabbo Family Health Center – the only community health center located in Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood and one of six in the Addabbo network.

“This is sent from heaven,” exclaimed Bea Cordero, the clinic site manager. “It’s like Christmas!”

The staff were especially excited about the nebulizers and chronic disease medications as they said they were most concerned about maintaining regular medical care for their patients with hypertension, diabetes, and asthma.

The health center, which re-opened Tuesday, was flooded with four feet of water from Hurricane Sandy and suffered thousands of dollars in damaged equipment. The center is still without electricity and is running off power from a generator.

With only small space heaters for warmth, clinic staff work in their winter jackets, hats, and scarves – working to providing health care to the community under any circumstance.

The staff’s dedication is what has helped the center – which opened June 2011 – steadily grow to treat 75 to 80 patients a day and gain trust in the community after the previous health center occupying their building left.

“We had to prove ourselves and I think we’ve done that,” said Michelle Modeste, director of nursing. “This would really be a set back for us if we didn’t come in here and try to do something.”

Modeste told Direct Relief that the building had never been upgraded until they moved in. They began to add more specialties to the services offered, including dental, OB/GYN, podiatry, optometry, cardiology, infectious disease and a state-recognized HIV testing and treatment program. An independent pharmacy also operates on site.

The health center got fresh paint on the walls, ordered new exam tables, and installed a sonogram machine and ophthalmology machines.

“The patients used to sit in the waiting room and call each other on the phone and say ‘You’ve got to come over here, they’re getting new things’,” said Modeste.

Because they had moved all of the services to the first floor in order to renovate the second floor prior to the storm, all of the new equipment is destroyed and doesn’t appear to be salvageable. Insulation, mud and dust cover the once clean floor of the lower level.

The rest of the neighborhood appears just as dismal. Outside the health center, trees are strewn across walkways in the nearby park, signs for hot meals and warm places to sleep are posted on poles and piles of debris sit on street corners.

Many of the patients said they have no heat, water or electricity. Some reported that officials have told them they may not get power back until December.

Dr. Jin Pin Ying, CEO of the Addabbo Family Health Center network, said this timetable is worrying as most of the clinic’s patients live in Red Hook East and West, one of Brooklyn’s largest low-income housing buildings, and that most are on Medicaid or uninsured.

Committed to their mission to serve the community and not turn anyone away, Jackie de Leon, a nurse practioner, said she believes the new partnership with Direct Relief will help them get back up and running.

She and other staff were happy to hear that Direct Relief offers support every day, not just during disasters. With a new partnership established, Direct Relief and clinic staff hope the health center will once again be a place of vibrancy for the Red Hook community.

“To them, this is their family. This is their home,” de Leon told Direct Relief.

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