Community health centers on the front lines of COVID-19 outbreak

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LOWER EAST SIDE, Manhattan — Tenecha Lopez has been going to the Betances Community Center on Henry street in the Lower East Side since she was a teenager.

“My mother goes here. My father goes here. My sister goes here… it’s the only place around here for healthcare,” said Lopez.

Jerry Wolbert is a nurse practioner at the center. Betances has been in the neighborhood for 50 years treating families, regardless whether they have health insurance.

“The most important thing people need to know is we are here and they have somewhere to go,” said Wolbert.

Lately inside, he’s been seeing an influx of patients that are concerned they may have the coronavirus. Betances doesn’t do testing for the virus but he is able to evaluate and take the pressure off the emergency rooms.

The CEO of Betances, Julia Tsien, says the center is critical more than ever. They also have is a center in Bushwick. The center offers something called telemedicine, which allows you to FaceTime with a doctor right away.

“Our patients are the most vulnerable and the most underserved patients. Our mission is to treat regardless of their ability to pay,” said Tsien.

Tsien says centers like hers are the first line of defense when it comes to responding to public health emergencies, now they are critical.

The federal stimulus package that was passed would pump $1.3 billion into to community health centers across the country, including Betances.

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