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CO Health Center Advocates Head to DC for Long-term Funding

Community health centers generate $54.6 billion in total economic activity each year and employ more than 220,000 people across the country. (Ragesoss/Wikimedia Commons)
Community health centers generate $54.6 billion in total economic activity each year and employ more than 220,000 people across the country. (Ragesoss/Wikimedia Commons)
March 28, 2019

DENVER – Doctors, nurses and patients all are in Washington this week, urging lawmakers to commit to stable, long-term funding for the nation's Community Health Centers.

More than $5.5 billion of federal funding is set to expire on Sept. 30 unless Congress acts.

Polly Anderson, vice president of strategy and financing for the Colorado Community Health Network, says while federal grants are not the largest funding source, their contribution of 15 to 25 percent creates the base upon which these clinics operate.

She says Colorado's 21 health centers care for one in seven residents, regardless of their ability to pay.

"Seven-hundred-ninety-thousand people call a health center their primary dental and behavioral health care home,” she points out. “So, having secure funding with which to keep health centers fully staffed, to keep access open for individuals, is incredibly important."

In October 2017, Congress allowed the Community Health Center Fund to expire, and in 2018, lawmakers reauthorized just two years of funding.

Anderson says the delay and short-term fix have created significant challenges for recruiting and retaining staff, expanding services and upgrading facilities.

Nationally, Community Health Centers provide care for 28 million agricultural workers, low-income families and people who are uninsured or homeless.

Mitzi Moran, CEO of Sunrise Community Health in Greeley, says health centers deliver a good return on investment.

She says through preventive care, fewer hospitalizations and trips to emergency rooms, these clinics save the health care system $24 billion a year.

Moran adds the facilities and their employees are economic drivers, especially in the state's rural areas.

"They buy houses, they pay rent, they buy cars, they buy food, they eat at restaurants, they buy clothing. They are a huge part of a vibrant economy in Colorado," she points out.

According to the National Association of Community Health Centers, health centers add more than $54 billion in total economic activity each year and employ over 220,000 people nationally.

Every federal dollar invested in health centers generates more than $5 in economic activity.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO