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NY Community Centers Take Lead in Health Reform

August 9, 2010

NEW YORK - This is National Health Center Week, meant to raise awareness about New York's 70 nonprofit, community-based primary care organizations, which have more than 445 locations statewide. Lindsay Farrell, who runs Open Door Family Medical Centers in Westchester County, says Community Health Centers provide access to respectful and regular health care to 1.4 million New Yorkers in low-income urban neighborhoods, and in rural parts of the state where doctors are few and far apart.

"We absolutely have a physicians' shortage there; we are not graduating enough primary care physicians and we indeed are the family physicians for low-income people in communities across the state."

More than $1 billion in health reform and stimulus dollars are going to centers nationwide this fall to expand staff and facilities. Farrell says the centers are crucial to providing services to the uninsured and victims of the recession because they accept patients regardless of insurance status or ability to pay.

At a web-based town hall meeting on Friday, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced plans to open hundreds of new health care center sites nationwide to help serve the estimated 60 million Americans who live in areas where doctors are in short supply.

"Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, we are making $250 million available to support the establishment of approximately 350 new health center sites in fiscal year 2011."

Lindsey Farrell of Westchester says she believes a big reason policy makers are making such a big investment in community health centers is that they provide a valuable example of how to increase access to the needy as the nation grows into health care reform.

"It shows that it makes sense to serve people in the primary care setting; it doesn't make sense not to provide access to a family doctor and just wait for people to show up in the hospital emergency room, where indeed it's a lot more expensive, and it takes a lot longer."

Last year, Farrell says, about 41,000 patients were seen at Open Door.

The theme for National Health Center Week is "Celebrating America's Health Centers: Turning the Vision into Reality."

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NY