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Community Health Centers: Lighting the Way for Healthier Communities Today and in the Future

Community Health Centers: Lighting the Way for Healthier Communities Today and in the Future

Rooted in the Civil Rights Movement, community health centers (CHCs), have responded to the unique needs of the communities they serve for the last 55 years. As healthcare providers to more than 30 million Americans and 226,000 Iowans, health centers provide comprehensive, culturally sensitive services to all. In the midst of a public health crisis and our national dialogue around equity, National Health Center Week (August 9 through August 15), is the perfect time to recognize what CHCs contribute to the nation’s healthcare system.

Crescent Community Health Center (Crescent) will be celebrating National Health Center week with a series of events throughout the week for staff, patients and the community including a drive-thru resource fair on Thursday, August 13 at Crescent (1690 Elm Street, Dubuque, IA 52001) from 5:30 – 7 p.m. Guests are welcome to stop by to pick up materials and information from local agencies, learn more about Crescent’s available services and receive family/child activity packets. 

CHCs are the preeminent safety net provider, offering care to veterans, the homeless, and children in both rural and urban areas. Crescent treated 6,465 patients through 18,794 clinic visits in 2019, providing integrated medical, behavioral health, dental, pharmacy and enabling services – or social supports. 

“Community Health Centers are part of the core of our communities. As the patient-centered health home to thousands in the tri-state area, we are committed to providing quality care for all, now more than ever,” said Gary Collins, CEO. “COVID-19 has impacted every aspect of our daily lives. However, during the pandemic we remained open for care, and we continue to modify our care model for the safest environment for our patients and staff.”

CHCs are economic drivers, having a $35.5 million annual economic impact in Iowa. Not only do we provide job opportunities in our communities, but we help keep the local workforce healthy and productive. 

During COVID-19, CHCs are an important piece of our communities’ response as we provide not only safe access to healthcare but are also helping to mitigate the spread by providing testing and treatment for the virus. CHCs have responded to COVID-19 by increasing the use of telehealth and telemedicine, offering COVID-19 drive-up testing, and maintaining care for their regular patients as regular life as we know it has been upended.

CHCs are a vital resource for our communities, however, we need Congress’ support in order to survive this pandemic. In the short term, we need additional emergency funds to support our response, infrastructure resources to allow us to expand our physical space to allow for social distancing and patient safety, and a permanent fix to allow us to bill Medicare for telehealth services. Additionally, federal funding for CHCs and critical workforce programs are set to expire on November 30. If that funding lapses, CHCs will have to make drastic cuts to services, delivery locations, and staff, hobbling a critical care provider when we need it most. We implore Congress to continue to support our work to ensure vulnerable and underserved populations have access to the care and supports they desperately need.