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Farah Ahmad, USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Announces $1 Million Grant for Deborah

Farah Ahmad, USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development today announced a $1 million Emergency Rural Health Care (ERHC) grant for Deborah Heart and Lung Center. The grant will allow Deborah, the region’s only heart, lung, and vascular specialty hospital, to fortify its resources for the next pandemic response and transform the future of healthcare by equipping its patient rooms to meet the critical care standards necessary for treating very ill or highly infectious patients.

Deborah Heart and Lung Center is located in a federally-designated, medically underserved rural area in northwestern Burlington County. The hospital, celebrating more than 100 years of a mission to provide access to all regardless of ability to pay, serves a key role, providing access to high quality specialty care for residents in Burlington, Ocean, Mercer and surrounding counties. During Covid-19, Deborah provided nearly 9,000 vaccinations at its clinic, and opened one of the first Post-Covid Recovery Clinics in the tristate area. According to the USDA, nearly 800,000 rural residents fall within Deborah’s service area.

In addition to the grant announcement, Ms. Ahmad toured Deborah’s $108 million construction expansion project, financed by USDA Rural Development with an $88 million Community Facilities Loan and $10 million Community Facilities Loan Guarantee. The project, due to be completed in spring 2024, includes two new floors of private, critical care-level patient rooms, a staff respite area, and mechanical space. The project also includes renovation work which will allow Deborah to upgrade existing patient rooms to include the same state-of-the-art features provided in the new floors, create a new pharmacy clean-room, and allow for additional upgrades to the cardiac catheterization and electrophysiology labs.

“Having access to quality health care is an important part of USDA’s commitment to ensuring that people living in rural areas have every opportunity to succeed – and that they can find those opportunities close to home,” Rural Development Deputy Under Secretary Ahmad said. “The investment we’re announcing here in New Jersey demonstrates how the Biden-Harris Administration is partnering with rural people to make sure rural communities can continue to access essential health care services for years to come.”

“We are grateful for this $1 million grant from the USDA,” said Joseph Chirichella, President and CEO of Deborah Heart and Lung Center. “As a rural hospital and the only specialty heart, lung and vascular hospital in the region, we serve as a critical resource for our community. Given our location, the residents in our area often have difficulty accessing specialty care without travelling long distances. This investment in our campus will help to broaden that access and do so in a way that is forward thinking and pandemic-ready.”

USDA Rural Development State Director Jane Asselta said, “President Biden recently announced that on May 11 he will end the Covid-19 national emergency and public health emergency declarations. The past nearly three years have taught us of the critical need to invest in our rural healthcare infrastructure and of the impact that accessible, quality health care has on the well- being of our neighbors living in small towns.”

She added, “The USDA Rural Development New Jersey team is proud to continue to invest in and support the work of the employees at Deborah in their mission of providing outstanding care to those that come through their doors.  And we are thrilled to make our first investment in Shore Medical Center and support their dedicated staff in their pursuit of providing the highest quality of care for their patients from the Atlantic County region.”


Additional Statements of Support by Key Officials

United States Senator Robert Menendez

“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic we witnessed time and again how our hospitals and health care centers did not have the adequate resources to meet the needs and challenges that the pandemic presented and fixing that was an essential action item for the federal government,” said U.S. Senator Bob Menendez. “Today’s funding announcement is part of our promise to ensure that our nation and frontline responders are never unprepared for another pandemic or public health emergency. This funding will help both Deborah Heart & Lung and Shore Memorial Hospital equip critical care and COVID isolation wings so that more lives can be saved during non-emergencies and future crises.  I commend the USDA for continually supporting New Jersey’s hospitals through its Emergency Rural Health Care Grant Program and thank them for this life-saving investment.”

United States Senator Corey Booker

“For a century, Deborah Heart and Lung Center has provided critical, high-quality heart, lung, and vascular care to patients in South Jersey. I’m proud to see USDA support this storied institution with this grant award, and along with it, provide the largest rural development investment in New Jersey in USDA history, which will allow Deborah to expand, renovate, and continue its exceptional work as a national leader located in a medically underserved area.”

Congressman Andy Kim

“It is essential that we continue expanding quality and affordable healthcare access for everyone in New Jersey. This federal funding is going to go a long way to support two local hospitals and the care they provide the people closest to us,” said Congressman Andy Kim (NJ-03). “The investment will bolster Deborah Center’s work in my district delivering zero-cost services for patients and quality care for service members at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst and their families. I look forward to following the progress of these projects and all the work being done caring for people here in our district.”

Judith M. Persichilli, R.N., B.S.N., M.A.,
New Jersey Commissioner of Health

“Rural health has long been a concern and the Department of Health has worked to improve access to quality healthcare for vulnerable residents in New Jersey for nearly 30 years.
Through the Office of Primary Care and Rural Health, we partner with stakeholders to help ensure access to care for rural residents.”

State Senator Troy Singleton

“Deborah Heart and Lung Center plays a vital role in healthcare delivery in Burlington County and beyond,” said New Jersey State Senator Troy Singleton, who represents 17 towns in the county. “The USDA’s $1 million investment will be critical as Deborah continues to meet the needs of our rural, underserved communities and to provide quality cardiovascular care to patients in the region.”

Assemblywoman Carol Murphy

“This $1 million USDA grant is an incredible acquisition for the Deborah Heart and Lung Center, funding like this is key for continuing to provide high-quality, cutting-edge healthcare to the residents of Burlington County and South Jersey,” Assemblywoman Carol Murphy said. “Investments like this will keep this life-saving technology close by for countless residents who otherwise would have to travel great lengths for treatment.”

Pemberton Township Mayor Jack Tompkins

Equipping Deborah Heart & Lung Center with the resources to be prepared to a future pandemic will have a beneficial impact to Pemberton Township and the surrounding region.

Southern New Jersey Development Council

Marlene Z. Asselta, President

“As the recipient of this federal grant through the USDA’s Rural Development program, Deborah Heart and Lung Center will continue to deliver excellent, affordable, and much needed healthcare services to the South Jersey community. This award, on top of the support received from USDA Rural Development to fund the significant expansion project currently underway, will undoubtedly enable Deborah to continue its century-long commitment of providing award-winning care to a region in need.”

Burlington County Regional Chamber of Commerce

Kristi M. Howell, President/ CEO

“Deborah Heart and Lung Center is a nationally recognized leader in cardiac care and an integral part of our Burlington County Community. We are pleased that the USDA has awarded them this grant to help them further their mission.”

From left, Joseph Manni, Executive Vice President, COO, Deborah Heart and Lung Center; Farah Ahmad, Deputy Under Secretary, USDA, Rural Development; Sue Bonfield, Esq., Executive Vice President, Legal and Regulatory Affairs, and General Counsel at Deborah Heart and Lung Center; Judith Persichilli, RN, BSN, MA, New Jersey Commissioner of Health; and Jane Asselta, New Jersey State Director, USDA, Rural Development at a press conference announcing a $1 million Emergency Rural Health Care grant to Deborah Heart and Lung Center, and a $555,800 grant to Shore Medical Center.
Judith Persichilli, RN, BSN, MA, New Jersey Commissioner of Health
Farah Ahmad, Deputy Under Secretary, USDA, Rural Development
From left: Asm. Brandon Umba (NJ-8); NJ Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli; Asw. Carol Murphy (NJ-7); Jane Asselta, NJ State Director, USDA, Rural Development; Farah Ahmad, Deputy Undersecretary, USDA, Rural Development
From left: Deborah Heart and Lung Center’s Joseph Manni, Executive Vice President, COO; Sue Bonfield, Esq., Executive Vice President, Legal Affairs/General Counsel; Barbara George Johnson, Chair, Board of Trustees; Farah Ahmad, Deputy Under Secretary, USDA, Rural Development; and Jane Asselta, New Jersey State Director, USDA, Rural Development

Touring Deborah’s New Construction

About Deborah Heart and Lung Center

Deborah Heart and Lung Center in Browns Mills, NJ is an 89-bed teaching hospital that specializes in the prevention, diagnosis, research, and treatment of heart, lung, and vascular diseases. Founded in 1922, Deborah has been a regional and nationally recognized leader throughout its 100-year history, during which time it has healed 2.3 million patients from every corner of the United States and 87 countries in the world. From performing the first open heart surgeries (adult and pediatric) in New Jersey, to running one of the highest volume left-ventricular assist device (LVAD) implant programs in the region, Deborah has stood at the forefront of medical innovation, all while never wavering from its founding mission “there is no price on life.” Deborah, named a 2022-2023 High Performing hospital by U.S. News & World Report for Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Repair, Heart Attack, Heart Bypass Surgery, and Heart Failure, is also consistently recognized as a leader in patient care from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, ranking it as the top hospital in New Jersey for patient satisfaction; holds a top-tier Society of Thoracic Surgeons rating which places Deborah among the best cardiac surgery programs in the country; and is designated a national Top Teaching Hospital by The Leapfrog Group. Deborah is an Alliance member of the Cleveland Clinic Heart, Vascular & Thoracic Institute. To learn more visit

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