Free medical care now available to Latino community served by El Centro


Greater Mercer County residents served by Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton’s El Centro now can get free medical checkups, thanks to a new partnership with the Henry J. Austin Health Center.

The center has a mobile unit with medical staff who can address the primary-care needs of the children, adults, and seniors. This month, the unit started visiting El Centro once a week to serve El Centro clients. Service is expected to expand to twice weekly.

Additionally, clients will be able to get medications – and soon, dental care – from the mobile medical unit staff.

An underserved population

The goal is to get primary medical care to an underserved population, including undocumented immigrants, said Roberto Hernandez, El Centro’s director.

“The Latino community can be very distrusting, especially in this anti-immigrant climate lately, Hernandez said. “That lack of trust can be a barrier that keeps some from getting health care. But El Centro has a very good relationship with the Latino community, and they will come to us.”

The Latino population has been growing in Trenton and Mercer County in recent years. Latinos comprise more than a third of Trenton’s population and nearly a fifth of the Mercer County population, according to 2018 census figures. Hernandez believes the Latino community is undercounted, considering New Jersey is home to 475,000 undocumented immigrants, according to the Pew Research Center. 

The partnership is funded under a federal grant held by the Henry J. Austin Health Center.

El Centro clients can make appointments by calling (609) 394-2056. Drop-ins are also welcome. El Centro is located at 327 S. Broad St. in Trenton.

Founded in 1999, El Centro has been a trusted resource in the Spanish-speaking community for those seeking help with basic needs, job training, ESL and parenting classes, and Department of Justice (DOJ)-accredited immigration services. Children also receive assistance through mentoring, after-school programs, and summer camp. No appointments are required, and most services are offered free of charge.

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