“[Community Health Centers] provide a wide-range of services to some of our most underserved populations and they ensure our communities have access to quality health care, especially in times of public health emergencies,” Sen. Gillibrand said.
By Forum Staff
U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) on Thursday urged Congress to establish a Community Health Center Preparedness Program. The Emergency Fund would dedicate $13.5 billion in federal funding to help CHCs prepare for and respond to public health crises.
Gillibrand said she is also calling for an additional $12.4 billion for urgent workforce and infrastructure investments. CHCs are on the frontline of health care in the United States, particularly in rural and underserved areas, and provide a critical health care safety net during times of crisis, according to Gillibrand. Throughout the pandemic, these health centers have provided their communities with testing, tracing, vaccine preparedness, and other health services. Delivering critical needs to their communities has wiped out many community health centers’ financial resources and, without a dedicated source of federal funding related to emergency preparedness, many have been forced to temporarily close. Gillibrand said she is fighting to send essential resources into underserved communities to protect public health in the next coronavirus relief package.
“CHCs provide a wide-range of services to some of our most underserved populations and they ensure our communities have access to quality health care, especially in times of public health emergencies,” Gillibrand said. “CHCs have stepped up to provide even more essential health services to their communities and they are in need of dedicated federal funding to stay afloat. Due to strained financial resources, hundreds of these vital centers have been forced to temporarily close when health care services are needed more than ever. Congress can’t allow this to happen; we must create an emergency fund to protect the health of all communities.”
CHCs provide affordable primary and preventative health care to the most vulnerable and underserved communities, Gillibrand emphasized Thursday. Over 30 million patients, including almost 400,000 veterans and almost 9 million children, receive quality medical, dental, vision, and behavioral health care services from a CHC. CHCs employ over 250,000 full-time employees nationally, produce nearly $63.5 billion in economic activity, and save our health care system more than $24 billion per year (facts and figures prior to the pandemic). CHCs also help people access healthy food, safe housing, and affordable transportation. In the midst of the addiction epidemic, CHCs are well-positioned providers of substance use disorder and mental health treatment in communities. Services provided by CHCs help patients avoid unnecessary trips to the emergency room and reduce health disparities in communities, Gillibrand added.
To support CHCs throughout the COVID-19 crisis, Gillibrand indicated that she is specifically calling for a $13.5 billion emergency fund that could be used for:
- COVID-19 emergency funding required to adequately respond to this public health crisis
- COVID-19 emergency funding to reach underserved and prioritized populations with vaccine
- Tele-health reimbursement expansion of coverage and rates that are insufficient to cover costs as well as inadequate for all of tele-health’s potential uses
- Equal access to emergency funding for health center Look-Alikes