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Renewing Community Health for South Dakota

June 13, 2008

Sioux Falls, SD – Legislation reauthorizing the federally-funded Community Health Centers program heads to the U.S. Senate, after the House gave its nod of approval late last week. The centers care for 60,000 people in 34 South Dakota communities, and the renewal legislation promises to reach even more people.

Scot Graff, CEO of the Community Healthcare Association of the Dakotas, says community health centers play a critical role in meeting the medical needs of working families, often in rural areas.

"It is a growing role as the number of uninsured, and underinsured, continue to increase due to a number of reasons, including the lack of health insurance or quality of health insurance, and the cost of healthcare. The number of people our health centers are seeing, in both South Dakota and North Dakota, is increasing."

Graff says the renewal passed in the House with bipartisan support, adding that the legislation would expand the program, which currently provides care for more than 17 million nationwide.

"We are working with our national organization and health centers across the country to reach 30 million patients by 2015. And, in both North and South Dakota, we hope this authorization will allow us to expand and continue to serve more patients while cleaning up some of the provisions in the law."

If approved by the Senate, the renewal would add liability protection for doctors who volunteer at health centers or travel to provide emergency services. Both the North and South Dakota congressional delegations supported the reauthorization, which is necessary every five years.

David Law/Don Mathisen, Public News Service - SD