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Federal funds boost Northeast high-speed EV charging network; the Heat Dome remains the top story over more than half the nation; Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in TX face health disparities; Groups debunk claims of 'skyrocketing' numbers of non-citizen voters.

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U.S. House passes the National Defense Authorization Act, with hard-right amendments. Political scientists say they worry a second Trump presidency could 'break' American democracy, while farmers voice concerns about the Farm Bill.

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As summer nears, America's newest and largest international dark sky sanctuary beckons, rural job growth is up, but full recovery remains elusive, rural Americans living in prison towns support a transition, while birth control is more readily available in rural areas.

Amid Record Demand, Community Health Centers Confront Key Obstacles

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Thursday, August 10, 2023   

This week is National Health Center Week.

The facilities help to close care gaps in underserved communities, and regional and national leaders hope recruiting efforts and pleas for federal funding pay off as they try to meet demand. Last year, Community Health Centers served a record 31.5 million patients in places such as rural areas, communities of color and tribal areas. In 2021, nearly 136,000 individuals in North and South Dakota sought care at these facilities.

Shelly Ten Napel, CEO of the Community Healthcare Association of the Dakotas, said like other sectors, they face pressure in finding enough staff members to keep centers operating.

"The resources are there, the desire's there, the need's there," Ten Napel explained. "It's just the challenge of recruiting folks."

The shortages are especially felt among nurses who help with primary care and those who see dental patients. Her organization hopes to expand outreach to convince more people to enter the fields. While there are current resources to fill open positions, a federal funding extension expires at the end of September. There is bipartisan support to address it, but the Congressional recess creates uncertainty.

Susan Burton, director of national grassroots advocacy for the National Association of Community Health Centers, said with Capitol Hill in recess, advocates are inviting Congressional members from both sides of the aisle to visit a health center in their districts to better understand the urgent need for continued resources.

"Community health centers are small businesses, and imagine being a small business and not knowing if you're going to have funding coming in to pay your vendors or to sign a contract with your employees," Burton pointed out. "If community health centers don't know that they're going to have funding year to year, it's really difficult for them to recruit and retain providers."

One in 11 Americans are health-center patients, and Ten Napel noted they serve everybody, regardless of their ability to pay.

"We serve people on a sliding-fee scale based on income," Ten Napel emphasized. "Health centers really try to wrap around a whole range of services that people may or may not need. So, we think about things like transportation and access to affordable medication."

While federal funding is a concern, North Dakota this year did approve $2 million in new funding for health centers.

Disclosure: The National Association of Community Health Centers contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy and Priorities, and Health Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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