Celebrating National Community Health Center Week
From Senator Kit Bond's Blog:
August 13, 2010
No doubt, just like last summer, during these “dog days” of August, people across Missouri will be talking about health care. While there will be much important, and vocal debate, Missourians should be proud of the health care safety net our state created many years ago.
While serving as Governor of Missouri, I was approached by health-care leaders across Missouri with an innovative approach for providing health care to traditionally underserved communities. Together, we identified communities with little or few health-care options and worked to locate clinics in these areas that would serve everyone, regardless of their ability to pay, in a cost-effective and efficient manner.
These clinics, now known as Community Health Centers (CHCs), are medical facilities that provide primary, dental and mental-health care to members of the community who might otherwise receive no care at all. What does this mean in human terms? Well, fewer trips to the emergency room for one. For a young, pregnant woman, it means the difference between quality care for her unborn child and no care at all. For others who might not be able to afford dental or mental-health care, it means their conditions will be treated, not ignored. For young children, it means immunizations and regular check-ups that they might not otherwise get.
Studies have shown that our innovative approach paid off, patients with access to a Community Health Center: make better use of preventive care; manage chronic illnesses better; and use emergency rooms less. Also, Community Health Centers lower infant mortality rates and reduce racial and ethnic health disparities. Most importantly, Community Health Centers serve everyone, regardless of ability to pay. Everyone that walks into a Community Health Center is seen and no one is turned away.
Ten years ago I joined with like-minded colleagues – both Republican and Democratic – in the U.S. Senate to take this successful Missouri model and make health centers available to more people across the nation. Over the period of a decade, we have increased funding for community health centers by more than 1.2 billion.
The new funding has led to the creation of 3,000 new health care facilities across the country, including an additional 113 new sites in Missouri. That means a lot more people are now getting care – prenatal care, immunizations, regular check-ups – people who might not otherwise receive it.
In total, Missouri now has 21 Community Health Centers, which have over 170 different sites. These clinics are at the forefront of providing community-based, affordable primary health-care service to children and families in need throughout the state.
I have had the opportunity to visit many of Missouri’s Community Health Centers, and see first-hand the good work they do. I have talked to doctors, nurses, patients and administrators and they all agree: Community Health Centers work. They are a model of how health care should be delivered.
In recognition of the important care these centers provide to Americans throughout our country, this week is National Health Centers Week. This year's commemoration is special because 2010 also marks the 45th Anniversary of the creation of the Health Centers Program. For 45 years Community Health Centers have been on the cutting edge of providing a health care safety net to people who need it most.
This year’s theme "Celebrating America's Health Centers: Turning the Vision into Reality," highlights the National Association of Community Health Centers’ “Access for
All America Plan” to provide a health care home to 30 million patients by 2015. This is a vision all Americans can support – and a vision that Missouri has proudly led the way in making possible.