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VNA and CentraState will create medical facility in former supermarket

FREEHOLD – With approval from the Freehold Borough Planning Board, a vacant supermarket will be converted into a medical facility.

The board has approved an application submitted by the Visiting Nurse Association Health Group (VNA) to refurbish a vacant building on Park Avenue (Route 33) as a medical center. Attorney John Giunco presented the application on behalf of the VNA during a recent meeting.

For many years, the 25,000-square-foot building housed a Foodtown supermarket. Foodtown closed in 2015. The building was later occupied by the Freehold Fresh Market, which closed around 2016.

“Like the conversion of the old police station at the corner of Bennett and Hudson streets to offices, the Foodtown supermarket conversion is another example of adaptive reuse of an older, outdated building for new purposes,” said Councilman George Schnurr, who serves as the Borough Council’s liaison to the Planning Board.

According to VNA strategic initiatives director Jenna Vaccaro and marketing communications specialist Emily Dubyoski, the building will be divided into two areas.

One area will be a primary care medical center, which is a partnership between VNACJ Community Health Center and the CentraState Family Medicine Residency Program, and sponsored by the Rutgers University Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

The medical center will provide primary care, health screenings and education, prenatal care, podiatry, nutrition counseling and diabetic education, according to Vaccaro and Dubyoski.

Clinical specialist Rutgers facility physicians will provide services in the fields of family medicine, sports medicine, gastroenterology, geriatrics and ophthalmology as part of the residency program.

“This is a family practice model which means we treat all age groups and all members of the family,” Vaccaro and Dubyoski said.

The second area of the building will be used as administrative offices for the VNA’s Children and Family Health Institute’s headquarters.

The Children and Family Health Institute, according to Vaccaro and Dubyoski, supports families, particularly those with special needs children who have developmental or learning disabilities or chronic medical conditions.

“The institute was created to help families navigate services that are available to help them care for their children,” Vaccaro and Dubyoski said. “VNA also has a supplemental nutrition program providing education, access to healthy food choices, and breastfeeding education and support for pregnant women or nursing mothers, and children under 5.”

The VNA and CentraState workforce at the facility is expected to include 32 primary care staff, 14 CentraState family medicine staff and 36 Children and Family Health Institute staff, according to Vaccaro and Dubyoski.

They said the VNA is the state’s largest nonprofit community health organization. The organization provides services throughout New Jersey, with Monmouth County as its base, and has served individuals in Freehold Borough for more than 100 years.

“We provide home care, hospice and a large number of community health, public health and primary care programs and serve over 150,000 patients and families each year,” Vaccaro and Dubyoski said.

“Our mission is to help individuals and families achieve their best level of health and well-being. In addition to our community health centers … we also have a physician home visitation program to bring primary care to homebound and disabled patients.

“The Children and Family Health Institute programs are our historical mission services and having a home for the institute brings together professional and educational resources to improve the quality and coordination of care. It serves as a model to help families develop good parenting skills and to promote healthy early childhood development

“We have a long history of collaboration with CentraState Medical Center on many projects, including a palliative medicine consultation program using a board certified palliative medicine physician from VNA for inpatient (care) and the long-term care facilities,” Vaccaro and Dubyoski said.

“We are excited about this new collaboration because it adds a higher level of clinical expertise and resources to our primary care services with both the clinical specialists at CentraState Medical Center and the Rutgers RWJ Medical School faculty specialists.

“The teaching center model allows us to train family practice residents in a modern, state-of-the-art facility and encourage them to remain in New Jersey,” they said. “There is a shortage of primary care physicians nationwide and this partnership hopes to address that by combining the latest advances in medical education and clinical practice with the VNA’s expertise in providing community health programs.”

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