BVMI’s Grand Opening

  • May 17, 2017

Bergen Volunteer Medical Initiative will be hosting a Grand Opening at the new Lynn Diamond Healthcare Center this Sunday, May 21st. The event will run from 2-5 pm and will be hosted outside our new home, located at 75 Essex Street in Hackensack.

There will be food, entertainment, and tours! Please contact Samantha at (201) 518-8487 or should you have any questions or if you are interested in attending.

Bergen Volunteer Medical Initiative has moved to the new Lynn Diamond Healthcare Center and will continue to provide free, life-saving primary care to hard-working uninsured Bergen County, NJ residents.

Corporate Partners Help BVMI Meet its Mission

  • May 1, 2017

Bergen Volunteer Medical Initiative (BVMI) has received several recent gifts and grants to support its mission of providing free primary healthcare for low-income, working Bergen County residents who do not have insurance.  These gifts, coupled with BVMI’s recent move to the new 5,000 square foot Lynn Diamond Healthcare Center in Hackensack, will ensure greater access to healthcare for the underserved, and allow BVMI to engage more volunteer medical professionals to deliver quality, compassionate care.

  • A $10,000 grant from The Valley Hospital Foundation will be used to support BVMI’s nurse practitioner, whose presence is integral to the day-to-day operations of the healthcare center, providing continuity of care and the capability to accommodate urgent and sick visits.
  • Long-time supporter TD Bank, a member of BVMI’s Champions Circle, awarded BVMI $12,500 to support operation of the new healthcare center.
  • A $19,000 grant from the SUEZ Foundation was used to purchase and install upgraded technology at the Lynn Diamond Healthcare Center, which will enhance patient care and education.

Amanda Missey, president and CEO of BVMI, says “We are very grateful to our corporate partners – each and every one is pivotal to the day-to-day operations of our nonprofit. With them, we are able to provide vital, lifesaving healthcare and keep our neighbors in Bergen County healthy.”

BVMI Lynn Diamond Healthcare Center Opens in Hackensack

  • April 24, 2017

Bergen Volunteer Medical Initiative (BVMI) has relocated to a brand-new, 5,000 square foot healthcare center at 75 Essex Street.  The project was financed entirely through charitable contributions, including a $1 million gift from Lynn Diamond, a long-time supporter of the organization.  The new center will be called the Lynn Diamond Healthcare Center.

BVMI provides free primary healthcare to low-income, working Bergen County residents who do not have health insurance.  More than 50 clinical volunteers – many retired or semi-retired – see nearly 1,000 patients in more than 6,000 patient visits annually.   All five Bergen County hospitals provide free diagnostic services, Quest Labs provides free lab work and a network of 200 specialists in the community agree to see patients free of charge.

Bergen Volunteer Medical Initiative (BVMI) has moved to 75 Essex Street in Hackensack, NJ and will continue providing free, life-saving, primary care to uninsured, hard-working Bergen County residents.

The Lynn Diamond Healthcare Center, which was built and partially funded by Greater Bergen Community Action, is 40% larger than BVMI’s former home and boasts six exam rooms, two consult rooms, a diabetes education room and space that can be used for group patient education sessions.  There is also a spacious waiting room, a lab and dedicated volunteer workspace.

“Our new, larger space means that we can see – and are actively seeking – new patients,” said Amanda Missey, president and CEO.  “We are also looking for new volunteers – doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners, social workers and nutritionists – to ensure that we are able to provide care to all who need it.  We are fortunate that the federal government provides malpractice insurance for all of our volunteers, who must be licensed in New Jersey.  Our volunteers love it here – the ‘slow medicine’ that we encourage allows them to practice medicine the way they always dreamed they would. “

On June 15, BVMI will resume hosting Second Thursday Open Houses, giving interested volunteers and donors an opportunity to tour and learn more about the healthcare center.  To RSVP for an Open House, or to schedule a private tour, please contact Samantha Poremba at 201-518-8487 or e-mail

Meet Kathy Acosta: BVMI’s social worker!

  • January 23, 2017

BVMI has welcomed Social Worker Kathleen Acosta, MSW, LCSW, who joined the BVMI family in early October. Her hours are Tuesdays and Thursdays, for a total of 8 hours a week. She comes to BVMI with “feet on the ground” experience, having previously worked at another medical health center in a similar role.

Bergen Volunteer Medical Initiative (BVMI) provides free healthcare to hard-working Bergen County, NJ residents who don't have insurance.

Kathy often has the opportunity to see patients during their primary care visit, which is very beneficial. Since all patients complete a PHQ-9 (depression screening) questionnaire before their first primary care visit, it’s possible to determine if they may have these types of issues. If the doctor/nurse practitioner finds that the patient’s score on the PHQ-9 is high enough to warrant intervention by the social worker, that’s where Kathy comes in. If by chance the patient’s medical visit does not coincide with one of the days Kathy is working, the doctor/nurse practitioner can still make a referral to her as needed.

Kathy believes it’s important to incorporate mental health support into a patient’s overall care. By merging the two, she says you can bring awareness to the patient that some of their symptoms, such as migraine headaches, may be influenced by factors that are not purely physical.

“Social workers can ask questions in a different way than the medical staff,” said Kathy. Since Kathy speaks Spanish and is able to make inquiries in a culturally-sensitive way, she might uncover slightly different answers than the doctor or nurse practitioner receives. She calls it the ability to “rule out or find out” when it comes to relating a patient’s physical symptoms to their mental health.

“Sometimes patients have no one else to talk to, no inner circle,” said Kathy, “and this gives them a great feeling of relief — to be able to open up about the things that are truly bothering them. “

“A big part of my job is being able to give patients resources and referrals,” she added. “I can explain symptoms they may be having — such as depression, anxiety and panic attacks – in a way that “normalizes” them. That makes it easier to explain to the patient what can be done to help, whether we’re talking about the benefits of medication, a referral for therapy, or other ways to cope.”

“It’s really a team effort at BVMI,” said Kathy. We communicate with each other a lot. And Michelle Kaye, our Nurse Manager, also knows what’s going on with almost all the patients; that is very helpful. Everyone is just genuinely caring and does a great job of documenting things, too.”

Welcome aboard, Kathy!

Join us now that the paint is dry!

  • December 13, 2016

Come see our new home!

We’re moving soon – here’s your chance for a sneak peek at our new home! Join us on Wednesday, December 21st to see our new home at 75 Essex Street. The Ribbon Cutting will be at 3PM with tours to follow.

Our new home located at 75 Essex Street, Suite #100 in Hackensack, NJ. If interested in attending, please RSVP by clicking here. Should you have any questions, please call Samantha at (201) 518-8487 or email at

BVMI's Ribbon Cutting Celebration

Bergen Volunteer Medical Initiative (BVMI) Adds Mental Healthcare For Uninsured in Bergen

Bergen County Proud to be Stigma Free


Article by Cynthia Chazen

Bergen County is home to approximately 40,000 uninsured adults who are ineligible for Medicaid or health subsidies. At BVMI in Hackensack, 1,000 hard-working people are provided comprehensive, integrated healthcare thanks to physicians, nurse practitioners, social workers and volunteers who donate professional services to the working poor.

BVMI services the population most hard-pressed when it comes to obtaining care.

Their “Average Patient” is 40-50, Hispanic, a single mom who also cares for a parent in their home, works and earns $12,000 or less annually. Almost all rely on public transportation. 60% are undocumented, filling low-paying but necessary jobs we rely on to keep our homes and communities running.

40% of BVMI’s patients are from Hackensack, but according to CEO Amanda Missey, “We service clients from almost every town in Bergen.” 65% of their clients are female, but more working men have sought services as BVMI grows.

BVMI began administering a mental health screening to all patients in 2015.  This year, a $40,000 grant from the Aetna Foundation enabled them to hire a part-time, bilingual social worker, Kathy Acosta, LCSW. Her services were built into the Women’s Health Initiative Program, run by volunteer Dr. Kay Fagan, PhD, RN, APN. Kathy provides the counseling and refers those in need to ongoing mental healthcare.

BVMI is staffed by physicians from many specialty areas, but they are still seeking the volunteer services of a psychiatrist to aid them in long-term prescribing and complex cases.

“There is no such thing as free outpatient mental healthcare,” said Ms. Acosta, “so we can’t just refer clients out. It is nearly impossible to find a psychiatrist for the uninsured patient.”

BVMI is currently limited to providing a “PHQ9”- a standard depression screening- and several sessions of counseling per client. The integrated program has primary doctors prescribing medications, and BVMI makes sure clients get a thorough exam:physicians spend an hour with every new patient. For any who need long-term mental healthcare, BVMI struggles to find community partners, and patients must pay for mental health services that many see as dispensable. These women care for themselves last.

The SFZ News was astonished when Ms. Acosta noted that 80% of  BVMI patients screened positive for depression. It’s not surprising when you consider the daily struggle that poverty, menial work, exhaustion, single parenting, stigma and trauma create beyond expected stresses.

Ms. Acosta explained living hand to mouth causes depression via all those factors. She noted cultural barriers in the Hispanic community towards mental illness, and said initial counseling sessions with women testing positive for depression or anxiety are spent just explaining what depression, a social worker and counseling are, and why a mental health referral may be needed.

“They usually just say, ‘I’m not crazy!,” she sighed. ”So many of our patients come in sick and they don’t know why,” added Ms. Missey, “it turns out to be their mental health, after you dig way down deep”.

“Providing someone who understands their language and culture gives people a comfort level [accepting mental health services],” said Ms. Acosta, “I wish we could do more. If we didn’t provide services, honestly I don’t feel our clients would get any mental healthcare.”

Kathy Acosta with BVMI Patient

BVMI hopes to increase Kathy’s hours and  institute on-sight mental health support groups; making it easy for clients to get to a group and accept help. They have been blessed with social work interns from Ramapo College, but don’t currently have mental health counseling available every hour they are open.

If you are a prescribing psychiatrist, or a social worker, nurse or are Spanish-speaking  and can help BVMI provide better mental healthcare for our working poor, contact Amanda Missey at  BVMI (201-342-2478 or and volunteer.

80% of any Bergen County population suffering from poor mental health is simply unacceptable. BVMI aims to change that.

BVMI Receives Generous Gift from NCJW – Bergen County Section

  • November 16, 2016

Bergen Volunteer Medical Initiative (BVMI) received a generous grant from the National Council of Jewish Women (NJCW) – Bergen County Section. The funding will be used to support BVMI’s Women’s Health Initiative. Nearly 70 percent of BVMI’s patients are female.

At BVMI, the intake for all patients, regardless of gender, includes a comprehensive primary care examination, and gynecological care becomes part of the follow-up care for women patients who have not had recent examinations and/or are determined through the primary care check-up to require additional care. All women over the age of 40 who have not had a mammogram in the past 12 months are referred for the procedure.

“Funds from NCJW – Bergen County Section will enable us to continue providing age-appropriate care to our women patients, who are often so overwhelmed by working long hours and taking care of their families that they put their own healthcare last,” says Amanda Missey, BVMI president and CEO. “Many of our women patients are seeing a doctor for the first time in years – as primary earners and caregivers, keeping these women healthy is critical to ensuring their families stay healthy, too.”

NCJW Check Presentation

Representatives from National Council of Jewish Women – Bergen County Section presented a check to BVMI for its Women’s Health Initiative. Pictured L-R: Amanda Missey, CEO of BVMI; Gladys Laden, NCJW chapter member; Ruth Seitelman, NCJW VP Community Services; and Marcia Levy, Presidium NCJW – Bergen County Section.

BVMI Hosts Delicious Dining with Chef Kelly Carroll

  • October 19, 2016

Do you want to learn how to create healthy, easy-to-make appetizers? Then don’t miss BVMI’s Delicious Dining with Chef Kelly Carroll at Johnson Public Library in Hackensack (274 Main Street) on Tuesday, November 1 from 7-8 pm.

Delicious Dining is presented by Bergen Volunteer Medical Initiative as part of its Diabetes Education Program. “Many people don’t realize that their diabetes might be controlled by making some lifestyle changes like healthy eating,” says Holly Homa, RN, BVMI’s certified diabetes educator. Delicious Dining is free and open to BVMI patients and the public.

Chef Kelly is the culinary arts teacher at Hackensack High School and owner of K&C Culinary Solutions; he has previously held several positions as private chef, executive chef and culinary instructor.

Delicious Dining is open to the public but you must register to attend. Please call BVMI to reserve your slot at (201) 342-2478.

BVMI Receives Generous Grant from Allergan Foundation for Women’s Health Initiative

  • October 11, 2016

BVMI has received a $10,000 grant from The Allergan Foundation to provide mental health services to women patients.

“Our women patients are motivated to make changes because they are responsible for their families, and they want to be healthy, physically and emotionally, so their families will be successful,” BVMI’s social worker, Linda Steffe, notes. A guiding principle of the Women’s Health Initiative is that patients are treated holistically, with practitioners collaborating to address both physical and mental health needs.

Funds from The Allergan Foundation will support BVMI’s staff social worker, who sees women patients experiencing depression and anxiety. “We are grateful to The Allergan Foundation for their generous support,” said Amanda Missey, CEO of BVMI. “This grant will enable BVMI to continue providing critical services to low-income working women.”

BVMI Volunteer, Dr. Josef Machac, Makes “Best Doctor” List Third Year in a Row

  • October 7, 2016

Dr. Josef Machac, a cardiologist and recently retired Director of Nuclear Medicine at Mt. Sinai Hospital was, for the third year in a row, named one of the “Best Doctors in New York” by New York Magazine. Dr. Machac was one of 1,500 physicians chosen as best in his field based on 20,000 survey responses from top physicians and others in the New York metropolitan region. Dr. Machac is a staunch supporter of BVMI, volunteering his skills and expertise in cardiology and internal medicine since 2013.

“Dr. Machac is an exceptional physician,” says Dr. Arthur DeSimone, BVMI’s Medical Director. “He was a respected teacher, researcher and professor at Mt. Sinai, and he brings this experience to BVMI to provide both primary care and specialized cardiovascular care to our patients. He truly is the people’s doctor.”

Dr. Machac sees patients weekly at BVMI and is helping to lead a multi-disciplinary team of doctors, nurses, social workers, and community leaders to launch Paso a Paso (Step by Step), BVMI’s new obesity prevention program. “Dr. Machac is a valued member of the BVMI team, and we – and our patients – are very fortunate to have a “Best Doctor” right here in Hackensack,” says Dr. De Simone.