Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 15
 
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
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HiTOPS Renames Health Center To Honor $500,000 Legacy Gift

Ellen Gilbert

“We’re not going to be the same old HiTOPS,” said Executive Director Elizabeth Casparian describing the consequences of a recent $500,000 legacy gift from the J. Seward Johnson, Sr. 1963 Charitable Trust. The most critical change to the nonprofit agency will be the transformation of its health center from a relatively small facility focusing on adolescent reproductive health, to a full-service adolescent health center with a new name: the “J. Seward Johnson, Sr. Center for Adolescent Health.” A ribbon-cutting ceremony on April 20 at 5 p.m. will mark the renaming.

The broadened scope of services offered by the new health center are “near and dear” to the heart of Health Services Director Sandra Zordan-Friedman, who sees the building as a “safe space” where it’s okay to just come in and talk, “even if it’s just a question about using sun block.” She looks forward to offering “awareness-raising” sessions about good nutrition and preventive health measures; following up on health class discussions students have engaged in at school; and offering a “warm-line” for the non-acute, but concerning questions, that often distress young people. In-person, telephone, and email queries will all receive attention, with referrals to other local teen-friendly offices where appropriate.

HiTOPS casts a wide net: “We see kids from anywhere,” Ms. Zordan-Friedman said, noting that many come by bus from Trenton. More males are coming in, she reported, and young women often bring friends or partners. “There’s more involvement group-wise, and we try to keep a flexible environment.”

The new gift is restricted to HiTOPS’ endowment fund, and is intended to generate donations in support of the organization’s mission of promoting adolescent health and well-being. This effort is more important than ever, Ms. Casparian observed, as “many more kids who can’t afford higher deductibles” or have little, or no insurance, are coming in. The organization is hoping that a new innovation, “Gift of Health” cards that entitle a teenager to confidential health services whenever they need it, will catch on. Adults can purchase the gift cards, “loading” them with a set amount of money. “Buying cards for your teens sends a message that you expect them to act responsibly and thoughtfully and you, as their parent, want to make sure that they have access to services if and when they need them,” said Ms. Zordan-Friedman.

“We’d like to be more self-sustaining,” Ms. Casparian said, and the gift cards are meant to help toward that end. “We can’t be a fee-for-service operation for at least a while in the current economy,” she added. With this in mind, “Gift of Life” cards can be donated back to HiTOPS to be used by young people who cannot afford to pay for services.

The April 20 event will give HiTOPS an opportunity to highlight several of the new programs and services that the Health Center is offering. As a result of funding from the Horizon Foundation for New Jersey, for example, HiTOPS is now providing depression, mental health, and eating disorder screening to all clients who come to HiTOPS for services. Funding from Susan G. Komen For The Cure helps to provide breast health education and support, while Church & Dwight Co. Employee Giving has enhanced and expanded HiTOPS’ outreach to male clients. The results of a study of iQuit, the smoking cessation program used by HiTOPS, will also be displayed at the April 20 event. (See www.iquitathitops.com for further information about iQuit.)

In the meantime, HiTOPS continues to provide sports physicals for males and females, prevention visits, reproductive health care, HIV testing and counseling, and teen-friendly referrals for any issue that cannot be resolved at the Health Center.

Along with many of its clients, HiTOPS is feeling the effects of the nationwide economic downturn. The agency has implemented staff reductions and expense cutting measures, and continues to seek new sources of revenue to ensure that programs will be available for the youth who need it. According to Board President Paul Knodel, “The Board takes its fiduciary responsibility to the organization very seriously and we are asking the staff to keep a lean budget. However, we still need the community to continue its generous support of the organization as we weather these tough times.”

HiTops is holding its annual benefit, the HiTOPS Guardian Award Dinner, on May 8, at the Trenton Country Club. The event is underwritten by the Board and an anonymous donor, so that all proceeds from the event will go directly to services and programs. While contributors may designate any area(s) they wish to support, “unrestricted gifts are the most desirable,” Ms. Casparian commented.

For more information about HiTOPS Health and Education Center, visit www.hitops.org. To make an appointment at the Health Center, call (609) 683-5155, ext. 211.

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