Since the end of March, CompleteCare Health Network has been providing COVID-19 testing at drive-through locations in Cumberland and Cape May counties. Recently, they have expanded their efforts to visit local farms to ensure farmworker staff can also be tested for the coronavirus as needed.
“CompleteCare has been a leader in migrant and seasonal agricultural worker health initiatives for over 43 years,” said J. Curtis Edwards, president & CEO of CompleteCare Health Network. “It is part of our mission to serve everyone in the community who needs it and that commitment extends to those working on farms, fisheries and nurseries, year-round and seasonally at other spots in Cape May, Cumberland and Gloucester County.”
In 2019, CompleteCare had nearly 10,000 visits with migrant and seasonal workers across their 19 South Jersey health care centers. In early May, they and other Federally-Qualified Health Centers across New Jersey were approached by the NJ Department of Health to assist in testing farmworkers where they live and work.
“We jumped at the chance to help on the farms,” said Meghan Spinelli, vice president of Community and Government Relations at CompleteCare. “We have a relationship with many of the farm owners, crew leaders, and workers already. They trust us and know that they can count on us for care when needed. It is important for us to be able to offer both education and testing to ensure this population stays healthy and is able to continue work through the busy season.”
Since May 11, CompleteCare has tested more than 600 farmworkers, with plans to continue for as long as needed. The organization has outreach workers visiting the farms to plan testing days with the farm owners and then a team of providers and staff visit during agreed-upon times to get workers registered, screened and tested. Many staff are bilingual to ensure the process is quick and easy.
Prior to starting testing CompleteCare also worked to provide educational information to the seasonal and migrant workers including information about symptoms of the virus, safe hygiene habits, what to do if someone becomes sick, and the importance of isolating if someone shows symptoms.
“As farmers, we are on the front lines with our employees working hard to provide the essential needs of our nation while trying to hold this stealth disease at bay. Like the rest of NJ agriculture, we’re being proactive in trying to safeguard our valued employees, ourselves, and our families,” said Ed Overdevest, president of Overdevest Nurseries, LP in Cumberland County. “We greatly appreciate the voluntary testing that CompleteCare is providing as an additional proactive measure to complement the CDC and other safety guidelines we have previously implemented.”
This program is being conducted as part of a partnership between the New Jersey Department of Health, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture and the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development to assist agricultural businesses and farm workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of this initiative Federally Qualified Health Centers such as CompleteCare have been asked to provide educational material, screening and testing to support area farms.
Any farm, nursery or other agricultural business owners in Cumberland, Gloucester of Cape May County interested in learning more about CompleteCare’s program should contact Meghan Spinelli at 856-562-5415. To learn more about all of Complete-Care’s testing efforts visit CompleteCareNJ.org/COVID19 or call 856-451-4700.