By Jania Arnoldi, President/CEO of Valley-Wide Health Systems, Inc.
Across the country, the exceptional work of Community Health Centers will be recognized, work sustained while fighting on the front lines of COVID-19 to keep our communities healthy and safe. This celebration will demonstrate that not only is it possible to move beyond the partisan divide over health care, but to support and agree on a program vital to our communities.
Community Health Centers provide preventive and primary care services to almost 30 million people and continue to do so while facing a global pandemic. We provide care to people who disproportionately suffer from chronic diseases and lack access to affordable, quality care.
While our approach is community-based and local, collectively we are the backbone of the nation’s primary care system. Community Health Centers lower health care costs by 24 billion dollars a year, reduce rates chronic diseases, and stimulate local economies.
At Valley-Wide Health Systems, we provide primary medical care, dental care, behavioral health and pharmacy services, along with case management and care coordination services to help patients navigate the health care system. In our mission, we commit to providing high-quality, safe, effective and integrated health services in a respectful and inclusive manner for all with special consideration for underserved populations.
Community Health Centers look beyond medical charts to address the factors that may cause poor health, such as poverty, homelessness, substance use, mental illness, lack of nutrition, and unemployment. We are a critical piece of the health care system and we collaborate with hospitals, local and state governments, social, health and business organizations to improve health outcomes. We have pivoted to serving our communities through telehealth and COVID-19 testing, while still helping to ensure our patients can access necessities like food and housing resources.
While COVID-19 continues to exacerbate social and medical inequities across the country, Community Health Centers have stretched themselves to reconfigure services for those in need.
As unemployment rates rise and more people lose their employee-sponsored health insurance, Community Health Centers must remain open to provide care for all, regardless of insurance status.
The mission of Community Health Centers remains crucial today because access to basic care remains a challenge in many parts of the United States. Many people live in remote and underserved communities where there is a shortage of providers. In many cases, the nearest doctor or hospital can be as far as a 50-mile drive in another county.
Congress must act immediately for Community Health Centers to continue to serve as health care homes. Emergency and long-term, stable funding will ensure we can keep our doors open and close the growing access gap for medically vulnerable communities. Without the action of
Congress, Community Health Center funding will expire on November 30, 2020. I am grateful that our Colorado state and national legislators have shown leadership in protecting Community Health Centers from losing a major part of our funding.
Show your advocacy during National Health Center Week by supporting the Valley-Wide Health Systems clinic in your community. We will be there when you need us.