New Jersey state Sens. Kip Bateman, a Republican, and Loretta Weinberg, a Democrat, Dec. 7 presented a bipartisan resolution in honor of students who spanned the state to help family, friends and neighbors connect to health coverage.
The honored students were part of statewide nonprofit ‘Be Jersey Strong’, which trains student volunteers as community health workers who then, in turn, can promote a culture of health within their respective neighborhoods.
Be Jersey Strong, led by Indian American Dr. Aakash Shah, launched in 2015 and trained more than 500 volunteers in a three-month span. Two-thirds of the volunteers speak a second language — 50 languages in total — and come from 20 campuses across New Jersey to inform individuals about their health insurance options, according to a news release.
"I am grateful to the student volunteers of Be Jersey Strong for their efforts," Weinberg said in a statement. "They are a positive force in New Jersey's communities."
The nonprofit became one of the largest and more diverse efforts to connect the uninsured to coverage in the nation, the news release added.
"Many New Jerseyans struggle to navigate the increasingly complex process of finding affordable healthcare coverage," Bateman added. "That's why the wonderful work of Be Jersey Strong and its dedicated volunteers to help our residents understand their options is so important."
Such efforts have become all the more important in light of recent changes by the Trump administration, which has cut the enrollment period in half, decreased support for in-person enrollment assistance, and reduced funding for adverting enrollment by 90 percent, it said.
“As an emergency room doctor, I am reminded daily of the difference having health insurance can make,” said Shah, the executive director of Be Jersey Strong, adding that most New Jerseyans qualify for insurance subsidies and that there is free, in-person assistance to enroll available across the state.