In recognition of the roles Community Health Centers (CHC) have played in our recent moments of loss and triumph, National Health Center Week 2021 will be celebrated both in person and virtually this year Sunday through Saturday. Elected officials will join communities across Pennsylvania in elevating the work Community Health Centers have done while fighting on the front lines of COVID-19 to keep our communities healthy and safe. Their visits and messages will demonstrate it is possible to move beyond the partisan divide over health care and support and agree on a program vital to our communities.
CHCs are unique nonprofit facilities that provide preventive and primary care services to almost 30 million people nationwide and have continued to do so while facing a global pandemic. CHCs provide care to people who disproportionately suffer from chronic disease and lack access to affordable, quality care. While our approach is community-based and local, collectively we are the backbone of the nation’s primary care system. CHCs lower health care costs to the tune of $24 billion a year, reduce rates of chronic diseases, and stimulate local economies.
CHCs that are part of the Pennsylvania Association of Community Health Centers (PACHC) serve as healers and innovators. They look beyond medical charts to address the factors that may cause poor health, such as poverty, homelessness, substance use, mental illness, lack of nutrition, and unemployment. We are a critical piece of the health care system and collaborate with hospitals; local and state governments; and, social, health and business organizations to improve health outcomes for people who are medically vulnerable. We have pivoted to serving our communities through telehealth and drive-through COVID-19 testing while still ensuring our patients can access basic necessities like food and housing resources.
While COVID-19 continues to exacerbate social and medical inequities across the country, CHCs in Pennsylvania have stretched themselves to reconfigure services for those in need. As unemployment rates rise and more people lose their employee-sponsored health insurance, CHCs must remain open to provide care for all, regardless of insurance status.
The mission of CHCs remains crucial today because access to basic care remains a challenge in parts of the state. Many Pennsylvanians live in remote and underserved communities where there is a shortage of providers and, in many cases, the nearest doctor or hospital can be as far as a 50-mile drive.
Congress must act immediately for CHCs to continue to serve as health care homes. Long-term and stable funding for CHCs will ensure we can keep our doors open and close the growing access gap for medically vulnerable communities. I am grateful that elected officials in Pennsylvania have shown leadership in supporting and sponsoring legislation that will protect health centers from losing a major part of our funding.
Show your support during National Health Center Week by supporting a health center in your community. We will be there when you need us.
Cheri Rinehart, president and CEO, is with the Pennsylvania Association of Community Health Centers (PACHC), a statewide membership services organization representing Community Health Center — the largest primary care network in Pennsylvania and the nation — rural health clinics and other safety net providers that care for more than 917,000 Pennsylvanians at over 330 delivery sites in rural and urban communities across the commonwealth. Visit PAHealthCenter.org or call 1-(866) 944-CARE to find a Community Health Center near you.
Originally Appeared Here