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Health Centers Adapt to Care for Missouri's Most Vulnerable

Community Health Centers will lose 70% of their federal funding before November without action by Congress. (Adobe Stock)
Community Health Centers will lose 70% of their federal funding before November without action by Congress. (Adobe Stock)
June 26, 2020

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - Community Health Centers, in Missouri and across the country, are at the forefront in the fight to stop the spread of COVID-19. And some are doing even more to help the most vulnerable.

Proactive measures to prevent infection are difficult to follow for anyone without permanent housing, from social distancing and hand washing, to sheltering in place. The Downtown Health Center in St. Joseph provides medical and dental care, medications and counseling services for that area's homeless population.

Rodney Hummer, interim CEO of Northwest Health Services - which runs the clinic - says it's now offering free COVID-19 testing.

"It's kind of a one-stop shop," says Hummer. "So it's been very effective meeting not only the health care needs, but driving down the ambulance calls and ER admissions from that area, because the care is so accessible."

Hummer says the pandemic hit as health centers were already operating on short-term funding extensions, and the federal Provider Relief Fund only covered about 2% of their operating expenses.

The National Association of Community Health Centers is calling for $77 billion in new funding for pandemic recovery and growth of the program.

Health Centers are clinics that see patients without regard to their ability to pay. Despite drops in revenue and increases in expenses, Hummer says they've focused on rapid COVID testing in the community.

"Health Centers jumped in to testing early in the game," says Hummer. "And here at Northwest Health, we have a mobile clinic, so we've been able to test nursing homes, DHHS appointments, meat-packing plants. And we've got some amazing success stories, where we've identified the positive cases, thus prevented a ripple effect."

As a nurse himself, Hummer adds that he's proud to see the way nurses, doctors and medical staff are helping others during this health crisis.

"The pandemic has not stopped," says Hummer. "It's still here. It's not like it just happened for a month. And health-care workers are out there just doing their best, to stay in front of this and to stop the spread. "

Community Health Centers will lose 70% of their federal funding before November without Congressional action.

Mary Schuermann Kuhlman, Public News Service - MO