In 1990, Dr. Robert Zufall and his wife, Kay, opened a small clinic in Morris County, New Jersey, to provide free, primary medical care two nights a week to serve the most vulnerable residents of their local community. In fact, the need for this clinic was so strong, that the clinic subsequently expanded to larger facilities and recruited a dedicated team of volunteers to serve a full spectrum of services.
Today, the Zufall Health Center (ZHC) serves more than 16,500 patients in Dover, Morristown, and Hackettstown, where we provide primary medical care and dental care. We’ve also addressed the need for affordable care in surrounding low-income communities in rural Sussex, Hunterdon, and Warren Counties through our mobile care unit. With the increase of our health services over the years, we have provided almost 12,000 uninsured patients access to care that would otherwise not be readily available.
While our clinics are located in some of the wealthiest counties of New Jersey, there is a huge disparity among incomes in the region. In fact, 95 percent of the patients that we treat have incomes below 200 percent of the poverty line. As a result, the majority of our patients are affected by the chronic health conditions associated with low income, low literacy, minimal access to healthy and nutritious food, language and culture barriers, and limited availability of medication resources and medical specialties. Additionally, 65 percent of our patients are either overweight or obese. Of those patients, 40 percent have already been diagnosed with or are at high risk of diabetes.
To further improve the health of our patients we implemented a Clinical Pharmacy Services and Education Program specifically aimed at reducing medication errors, preventing adverse drug events such as accidental overdoses or toxic combinations of medications, and improving access to necessary medication. Through this program, we focus on providing care and one-on-one time with a clinical pharmacist for our most at-risk patients: those who suffer from multiple chronic conditions, have higher than average blood glucose levels, take 6 medications on average, and face other major socio-economic barriers. Over the past 5 years, the program has consistently helped patients improve their health and safety. In the past 12 months, the program has helped 64 percent of our diabetic patients bring their blood glucose levels under control, cut in half the number of adverse drug events they experience, and has led to an increase in the safe use of medications by our patients.
It’s clear that with specific care, patients – those who don’t have regular access to the most basic health care resources – are truly able to improve their own health and wellness given the proper care and education. And with these results, we know that we can help even more people who are in need throughout our communities, which is why we’re working to expand our Clinical Pharmacy Services and Education Program. Through the Clinton Foundation’s Health Matters Initiative, BD and Direct Relief made a Commitment to Action to provide support to small clinic and health care centers with innovative models of care for disadvantaged populations. We were so honored to receive $100,000 through this commitment, which will allow us to expand our Clinical Pharmacy and Education Services Program among those populations with the greatest need. With this grant, we will be able to treat 500 new high-risk patients who would otherwise lack appropriate care.