Free COVID-19 Testing and More Available to Communities Throughout New Jersey
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Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield New Jersey (BCBSNJ) and State government are teaming up to close the gaps in care for members and residents in need.
For many people, getting a COVID-19 test can sometimes feel impossible – particularly if you live in one of New Jersey’s larger cities or in a town that doesn’t have major medical facilities. An initiative launched by the New Jersey Department of Health (DOH) and supported by Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey is changing that.
Free testing is now available at COVID-19 public testing sites in communities all across New Jersey. The DOH maintains an up-to-date schedule, organized by county, on its COVID-19 information hub. Besides offering free COVID tests, the public testing sites also have health experts on hand to provide information about COVID and your health.
While COVID-19 testing is critical to diagnosing and treating people infected with the virus, it is also essential for preventing its spread. Testing is important for everyone, but it is vital if you are from a community that is most at risk.
“The New Jersey Health Department has brought a much-needed focus to connecting at-risk populations in New Jersey’s underserved communities to COVID-19 testing,” said Valerie Harr, Director of Community Health for Horizon BCBSNJ. “Horizon is partnering in this effort because as the State is able to close disparities in testing, we’re able to close other gaps that prevent these same residents from getting the care, information and services they need to stay healthy.”
Horizon BCBSNJ street teams that include health educators, nurses and community health workers are present at many of the sites offering additional educational materials, helping people who have questions about their insurance or who need assistance signing up for health insurance.
“The partnership with the Horizon BCBSNJ street teams amplifies the State’s health education team and complements our efforts. Community health workers accompanying testing teams provide additional opportunities to teach about preventing exposure to COVID-19, registering for vaccines and accessing necessary social supports,” said Lisa Asare, Assistant Commissioner of the Division of Family Health Services within the NJ Department of Health. “We are excited to have Horizon BCBSNJ on board.”
Connecting New Jerseyans to vital resources
Horizon BCBSNJ’s mobile testing sites give its team the opportunity to match people in need with community-based services that can help residents access work opportunities, childcare, health clinics, and food and nutrition resources, according to Mildred Menos, Horizon’s Director of Member Advocacy & Community Outreach Transformation.
“Our presence at the testing locations is an important extension of our normal outreach efforts to connect Horizon members and the public to vital community resources,” Menos said.
Helping uninsured seniors sign up for coverage is another priority for the Horizon BCBSNJ team. “We can enroll individuals in a new Medicare plan that meets their needs and their budget right on the spot,” said Rob Maxton, Manager of Medicare Community Outreach for Horizon BCBSNJ.
Horizon’s bus-sized “care-a-vans” can be found parked near the public testing sites. Big and colorful, the vans draw neighborhood residents to the testing sites, attracting them to stop and find out what’s going on inside.
“We see our role continuing in any way the State needs us most,” Harr said. “As critical as vaccines are, they also present new educational challenges to clear up questions, debunk myths and persuade the reluctant to get inoculated. We’re prepared for that challenge and look forward to the next phase of our outreach.”