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KY Community Health Centers Call on Congress for Long-Term Funding

An estimated 28 million Americans receive primary care at local community health centers. (@lelia_milaya/Twenty/20)
An estimated 28 million Americans receive primary care at local community health centers. (@lelia_milaya/Twenty/20)
March 27, 2019

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Community health center doctors, nurses and advocates are meeting with members of Congress in Washington this week, asking them to commit to supporting health-care access in low-income neighborhoods with long-term federal grant funding.

Community health centers are nonprofit clinics offering sliding-scale fees to underserved populations. In many cities and rural areas, these health centers are the only places individuals can receive primary and preventive care. Kentucky has about 24 federally funded Community Health Centers scattered throughout the state.

Family Health Centers, a network of eight clinics in the Louisville metro area, provided medical care to more than 40,000 Kentuckians last year.

"The Community Health Centers around the country and in Kentucky are really the foundation for providing access to basic health services in communities, as we see an erosion of the public health departments and the services that they've been able to provide," said Bill Wagner, chief executive of Family Health Centers.

Community health centers across the country temporarily lost federal funding in 2017, despite the fact that one in 12 Americans receives health care from these neighborhood clinics. That same year, they provided medication-assisted treatment for opioid-use disorders to more than 64,000 patients. Federal funding for community health centers is set to expire in September.

Wagner said clinics such as his take care of patients regardless of their ability to pay.

"Many of our patients are low income, uninsured, vulnerable," he said. "Without that base of federal funding support, we would not be able to fulfill our mission of ensuring that we see everyone regardless of their ability to pay."

Community health centers help reduce overall health-care costs by preventing hospital stays and emergency-room visits, Wagner said. Doctors who see primary-care patients at local health centers can detect chronic illnesses or prevent medical conditions from becoming worse.

Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - KY