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Stimulus Funds Highlight Health Centers, But CA Budget Erases


Monday, August 10, 2009   

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - California's health safety-nets will be in the spotlight this week, showing how important community clinics and health centers are to keeping under-served families healthy. These centers were among the first to receive federal stimulus funds to help them cope with increased demand during the recession.

However, in California those dollars are being used to play catch-up, according to Elia Gallardo, director of Government Affairs for the California Primary Care Association. She says what federal dollars have provided to community health centers, state budget cuts have taken away.

"During National Health Center Week, we want to highlight how much in jeopardy the current state budget is putting the network of community clinics and health centers, as well as the hopefulness that we see on the federal level with health care reform."

The state's new budget suffered $2 billion in cuts to health and human services, plus additional cuts the governor made that are now being challenged. As a part of National Health Center Week, clinics will hold health fairs, free testing and events to focus on the state's homeless and farm workers.

Marty Lynch, CEO of Lifelong Medical Care, Berkeley, says his clinic has seen a 50-percent increase in the number of uninsured seeking help.

"We see many, many, many more people without health insurance - people who have either lost their coverage or lost their job and are having a hard time getting any kind of health care."

Dave Taylor, chief operating officer for the National Association of Community Health Centers, says stimulus funding for the nation's health centers was the right medicine at the right time.

"This investment allowed health centers to respond quickly to increased demand as the recession deepened and people lost jobs and consequently their insurance coverage. It meant the country was providing a real health safety-net during troubled times."

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