Members of the community, community leaders, elected officials and friends joined the staff and team of Healthfirst last week to celebrate the organization’s grand opening of their new Orange County community office in the Town of Newburgh at Crossroads Plaza, 50 NY Route 17K, Newburgh. Hours of operation for the location are from Monday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Healthfirst is recognized as the largest nonprofit health insurance company in the State of New York and has more than 1.8 million members enrolled statewide. In addition to their work in Orange County, Healthfirst serves enrolled members in New York City, on Long Island and in Westchester, Rockland and Sullivan Counties. The organization had begun their work and outreach efforts in 2019 in Orange County but was then followed by the COVID pandemic which limited in-person services for a time. Now with the grand opening of this center and restrictions lifted, Orange County residents can receive the necessary health insurance services and guidance. Current staff at the new site, speaking English, Spanish, and Creole, are ready and able to assist those who come to the center and there are currently 9,000 Orange County residents enrolled in Healthfirst.
Errol Pierre, Senior Vice President State Programs at Healthfirst, reflected briefly on the journey to make this location and office a reality for the Healthfirst organization. “It took a long time for us to get this location open. Through the pandemic, there were delays, uncertainty on where we would be,” Pierre said.
During the pandemic, Pierre shared that while it was a difficult time, the company became stronger and adapted to the situation, adding telehealth options for Healthfirst users and creating a mobile app for users to gain access to resources. As the company prepares for the work ahead, Pierre is focused on several goals while working here in Orange County. “One is of equity and the focus there is 20% of the reason why someone gets sick or has healthy outcomes has to do with their access to a doctor, what they get through with their insurance card. 80% has to do with other factors, income, education, housing, inflation. As we grow in this space, we want to really think through ways that we can remove barriers to health care. We think every person regardless of their age, religion, creed, color deserves access to high quality care,” said Pierre.
Additional goals for Pierre include more Healthfirst outreach in the community to help make the community more of their work and services since arriving in 2019 and providing more high quality health care for all enrolled users of Healthfirst.
Miguel Centeno, Vice President of Community Engagement for Healthfirst shared his thoughts on the grand opening as guests started to make their way into the new office space. “This is a day, that’s been a long time coming. You know, we’ve been in the area in Orange County since 2019. And it’s long been in the plans for us to have an actual physical space like this. The fact that we’re here, and so many people are here to help us celebrate that day, is really exciting,” Centeno said. “There’s a reason that we made the decision to do business here. We think that we have programs and services that will be of value to the folks who call Newburgh and Orange County home.”
Judy Kang, Senior Vice President of Delivery System Engagement for Healthfirst also shared that she was happy to see her fellow Healthfirst colleagues and additional community partners celebrating the grand opening. “We [Healthfirst] pride ourselves as being a hyperlocal present health plan. And so with this location, obviously, it’s a continuation of that journey,” Kang said.
In attendance for the grand opening of the new center was New York State Senator James Skoufis, Assemblymember Jonathon Jacobson, Town of Newburgh Supervisor Gil Piaquadio and Deputy Supervisor/Councilman Scott Manley, Linda Muller, President and CEO of Cornerstone Family Healthcare, Nancy Proyect, Executive Director of the Newburgh Armory Unity Center and Daniel Maughan, President and CEO of Montefiore St. Luke’s Cornwall.
“We’re very happy to call Healthfirst a partner and we’re thrilled that you included us in such a prominent way in your new home,” Proyect said.
“Thank you for being here in Orange County but more importantly, thank you for taking care of those 9,000 people that you serve here in Orange County and the 1.8 million people that you serve throughout New York State because I know that they are your top priority,” said Skoufis. “Not your second priority, not your third priority, they’re your top priority. And that’s how this system is supposed to work. Congratulations.”
Over the course of the late afternoon, guests enjoyed food and drinks and the Newburgh Armory Unity Center dance team performed an Africa-inspired dance for the gathered guests. In addition, artwork created by students from the Armory was on display at the grand opening. The evening concluded with a brief ribbon cutting and photo opportunities as snow flakes began to fall.