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Bipartisan-Supported Health Centers Look to Secure Funding

The Western Wayne Family Health Centers has an inflatable colon on display to encourage people to get colorectal cancer screenings. (Adobe Stock)
The Western Wayne Family Health Centers has an inflatable colon on display to encourage people to get colorectal cancer screenings. (Adobe Stock)
August 5, 2019

DETROIT – It's National Health Center Week, and community health centers are celebrating their largest patient reach ever.

This year, health centers are serving 29 million people in areas lacking providers – up by 1 million from 2018.

Roughly four out of five patients who visit these neighborhood health sites are uninsured or publicly insured through programs such as Medicaid.

A large piece of the health centers' funding expires at the end of September, leaving them waiting for an extension from Congress.

But they have bipartisan support, and Lisa Rutledge, a special projects manager for Western Wayne Family Health Centers outside Detroit, says that could provide lawmakers with a rare opportunity to join forces this year.

"Getting this legislation passed is a good example of how the parties can work together, and how the House and Senate can work together, and have it be a win for the many millions of people in the United States who use community health centers," she states.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan is leading the charge to get funding reauthorized, alongside Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri.

In 2017, health centers served nearly 700,000 Michiganders, including more than 215,000 children.

There are 45 centers with more than 300 satellite sites in the state. Close to half of the centers are in rural areas, and they're able to provide comprehensive care, including treating substance abuse disorders and offering dental care, which Rutledge says is key to staying healthy.

Rutledge says the expansion of Medicaid in Michigan dropped the number of patients coming to facilities without insurance significantly, and more folks are now coming in for regular checkups.

"Being on the front line where people need access to care – whether it's because of distance or price – really provides an opportunity for people to get early detection and treatment, wellness visits and help them manage their chronic disease."

To celebrate National Health Center Week, Western Wayne Family Health Centers is hosting a health fair on Saturday at its Inkster location and helping children prepare for going back to school.

The fair will also feature a giant inflatable model of a colon to promote colorectal cancer screenings.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - MI