Update from the NACHC CHI

2015 NACHC Community Health Care Awards of Excellence

2015 NACHC Community Health Care Awards of Excellence

Paula Johnson, MD, addressing the NACHC 2015 CHI 50th Anniversary Celebration

Paula Johnson, MD, addressing the NACHC 2015 CHI 50th Anniversary Celebration

Well the last 24 hours of the 2015 NACHC CHI have been a bit of a blur, but we’ll try to give you some of the highlights.  A notable aspect of NACHC conference events are the pearls of wisdom and insight that come up during speakers’ remarks that give renewed shape and purpose to the 50 year old Community Health Center Movement.  One such moment came during the CHI 50th Anniversary Celebration.  Dr. Paula A. Johnson, MD, MPH, Executive Director of the Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology and Chief of the Division of Women’s Health at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, addressed the evening gathering with remarks that journeyed down the historic crossroads where health centers and the Civil Rights Movement first intersected.   Dr. Johnson said it was fitting that health centers started in Mississippi during Freedom Summer, calling healthcare the “the unfinished work of the Civil Rights Movement.”  She also commended health centers for leading innovation from the start while fighting poverty and disease, and urged them toward a renewed pursuit of “healthcare as a right for all,” particularly as the U.S. still suffers a dismal record in health rankings for preventable deaths.

Dr. Johnson’s remarks were the perfect cap to a day in which the NACHC Community HealthCare Awards of Excellence were presented to health center leaders, many of them longtime foot soldiers of the movement.  The awardees are:  Wilford Payne, Executive Director & CEO, Primary Care Health Services, Pittsburg, PA; Nancy Stern, CEO, Eastern Shore Rural Health System, Onancock, VA; Gary Ahasic, Board Chair, VNA Health Care, Aurora, IL; Samuel Miller, Chief Financial Officer, Crusader Community Health, Rockford, IL; Don Hinman, Board Chair, Yakima Neighborhood Health Services, Yakima, WA; Kameron Matthews, MD, Chief Medical Officer, Mile Square Health Center, Chicago, Il; Robert Pugh, Executive Director, Mississippi Primary Care Association, Jackson, MS; Elizabeth Rios (not present for the award), Nurse Practitioner, Community Health Partnership of Illinois, Chicago, IL, and Virgilio Licona, MD, Vice President of Medical Services, Salud Family Health Centers, Fort Lupton, CO.

Dr. Licona, a recipient of the Samuel U. Rodgers Achievement Award, offered up an eloquent summation of why these health center professionals were being honored, and why the movement still matters today, 50 years later.  “Healthcare is for people and not for profit,” he said.  “I am proud to share the stage with these people because we are helping to move the health status of the country forward.  We are an important part of the solution.”

More exciting developments came the following day with the announcement from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of $63.3 million in Affordable Care Act funding to 1,153 health centers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and 7 U.S. Territories.  Health centers will use these funds to expand current quality improvement systems and infrastructure, and improve primary care service delivery in the communities they serve.   “Today’s funding rewards those health centers that are achieving the highest levels of clinical quality performance and improvement,” said HRSA Acting Administrator Jim Macrae in a press release.  “The awards will help health centers continue to provide comprehensive primary care to the nation’s most vulnerable communities.”

HRSA Acting Associate Administrator Tonya Bowers also mentioned the grants during her presentation at the General Session, which highlighted some of the remarkable achievements of health centers (e.g., 98 percent adoption of EHRs, 89 percent of health centers have met or exceeded Healthy People 2020 goals for at least one clinical measure), in addition to some of the challenges that lie ahead: such as payment reform, primary care integration, and demonstrating value.

Now that conference attendees are packing their bags and heading home, there is a lot to think about, and prepare for in the next 50 years.




The 2015 NACHC CHI is Underway in Orlando!

The 2015 NACHC Community Health Institute with The Honorable Lowell Weicker

The 2015 NACHC Community Health Institute with The Honorable Lowell Weicker

EWP_1490 (00000003)The sun may be sweltering in Orlando but the mood inside at the NACHC Community Health Institute is upbeat and excited.  Thousands of health center advocates have arrived to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Community Health Center Movement, and to prepare for the next 50 years with a host of education sessions and presenters. The Honorable Lowell Weicker, who served in the House of Representatives and the Senate, as well as Governor of Connecticut, was among those addressing the gathering at the General Session. Weicker, a fierce champion of health centers during the 1980s when the White House attempted to eliminate their funding, commended health centers for their work in “serving the overlooked for 50 years.” The political veteran also provided attendees with an assessment of the current state of affairs in Washington  and underscored the critical need for health center advocates to continue to meet with their representatives on Capitol Hill and press their case because “we have so much left to do in health.”

Attendees also heard from the newly elected NACHC Board Chair Ricardo Guzman, CEO of Community Health and Social Services Center (CHASS), in Detroit, MI, who urged attendees to “seize the moment and make history now for another 50 years.”  Guzman also outlined several goals for health centers to pursue in the future, including, proving their value in communities.  “It falls on us to prove our value,” Guzman said. “Value is simple in concept… we must turn data into performance measures.”

Other speakers at the NACHC CHI General Sessions have included U.S. Rep. Danny Davis (D-Il), a longtime heath center champion.  Also, Farzad Mostashari, MD, Co-Founder and CEO of Aledade, Inc., and former National Coordinator for Health Information Technology at the Department of Health and Human Services,  engaged attendees with an address, entitled, “Health Centers Going From Good to Great — Operating A 21st Century Movement.”

Stay tuned to this blog for more developments about the 2015 NACHC CHI. #2015chi

A Cause and an Opportunity Meet 50 Years Ago

1 LBJIt was 50 years ago today that President Lyndon Johnson signed the Economic Opportunity Act.  From that moment on Community Health Centers were launched as a fledgling program; healthcare in American was never to be the same again. “To measure how far our nation has come in terms of progress in healthcare access, it is important to look back at where Community Health Centers started 50 years ago,” writes Dan Hawkins, Senior Vice President of NACHC in a recent blog post for  the Community Clinic Association of Los Angeles County.  “It began with a cause — and then an opportunity. The cause, undertaken by community activists and reform-minded doctors, was to bring needed health services into poor and neglected communities nationwide. From Mississippi to Watts, communities rose up around the cause of health equity. President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty was the opportunity we needed to respond to this demand.”

And indeed the demand for care remains, but today we celebrate our progress in meeting those needs over the course of five decades, and indeed the recognition and support received along the way.  Health centers defy the political odds by drawing rare support and agreement from leaders who may not agree on most things.  But both Presidents George W. Bush and President Barack Obama did agree that Community Health Centers needed to be in more communities, and both leaders made it possible.  As an editorial in the New York Times today noted:

The health centers got a start under President Lyndon Johnson’s war on poverty, expanded slowly over the years, and then got a huge lift from President George W. Bush, who doubled federal financing for the centers over five years and created or expanded almost 1,300 clinics in medically underserved areas. He admired the cost-effectiveness of the nonprofit centers, which treat low-income people and recent immigrants in poor urban neighborhoods and isolated rural areas and serve patients who would otherwise seek more expensive care in emergency rooms or hospitals…The 2010 Affordable Care Act further expanded the program with increased funding over a five-year period, and the larger system of clinics is one of health care reform’s most praiseworthy achievements.

It is this legacy of achievement and bipartisan support that we celebrate today as we prepare to gather with the thousands of health center professionals from around the country for the NACHC Community Health Institute in Orlando, Florida.

Stayed tuned!

National Health Center Week Day 3: “We Are The Change Agents”

Today was a special day for National Health Center Week and for health center leaders celebrating five decades of the Community Health Center Movement– they were able to hear from the top health official, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell, and indeed the co-founder of the Community Health Center Movement, H. Jack Geiger, MD.  Secretary Burwell, Dr. Geiger, as well as Jim Macrae, Acting Administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), joined health center leaders from all over the country for a special NHCW Teleforum.  The call came just one day after HHS announced New Access Point grants which will open 266 health center sites in almost every state.  Secretary Burwell in her remarks noted “each of you is part of a legacy that stretches back half a century.  Fifty years ago two health centers pioneered the health center program.  And today, over 1300 health centers form a network of high quality primary care and are a lifeline for some of our most underserved neighbors.”

Burwell also underscored the critical role health centers play in the U.S. healthcare system — a role that is growing even more important as they continue to improve care.  “Since the beginning of 2009, health centers have added 6 million patients. With your help we reached millions of Americans who are uninsured to educate them about quality, affordable health coverage available under the Affordable Care Act.  In total, health centers have helped more than 10 million Americans learn about and find [insurance] coverage.  As a result, centers have seen a significant drop in uninsured patients, nearly 16 percentage points since our first open enrollment began.”

Burwell also urged that it was time for health centers to go beyond insurance and build on the progress made in providing quality care. “As we work to build a better health system that delivers better care, spend our dollars more wisely, and put the consumer at the center of their care to keep them healthy, you all have a crucial role to play.  Many of you are already making progress in this area — adopting electronic health records, improving service integration and becoming patient-centered medical homes.  We put educated and empowered patients at the center of their care, we get better outcomes and a stronger healthcare system.”

Healthcare transformation was an emerging theme throughout the call, meaning, health centers are not only changing and adopting new ways to improve care delivery, but also transforming communities by going beyond medicine to solve problems.  In his remarks,  Dr. Geiger pointed out that this has always been the mission of health centers:

“We are change agents. We are transformative, new institutions. We are transforming things, not just within the healthcare system, but outside trying to address the root causes – the social causes – of so many of the problems that we deal with.”

Dr. Geiger — who is soon to turn 90 years young —  was also hopeful about the future and what the next 50 years hold for health centers.  “I am optimistic,” he said.  “There is something still true that I suspect is true of the people in this program and the people out there in the audience… that vision that lit up 50 years ago in that meeting in Greenville, Mississippi, where [the health center movement] first happened…that vision is burning just as brightly today and is just as deeply important as it was back then. As long as that stays with us we’ve got a wonderful future to look forward to.”

With just a few more days of NHCW left, we’re not sure any day will be as good as this one.  But we’re hopeful.  Stay tuned to this blog as we follow more news and developments with NHCW.






New Access Points and National Health Center Week Arrive at Last!

HCW 2015_FINAL_nationalThere are a lot of headlines to count so far on just day TWO of National Health Center Week (NHCW) but today’s main headline is that the Department of Health and Human Services has announced $169 million for 226 New Access Points.  These new health center sites are projected to increase access to health care services for over 1.2 million patients. These awards build on the $101 million awarded to 164 new health center sites in May 2015, according to the press release just posted moments ago.  The HHS announcement comes on the heels of a Presidential Proclamation  from the  White House honoring NHCW:

“An idea born from the fight for justice and civil rights, health centers — as well as the committed professionals who support them — carry forward the ideals fought for at a transformational time in our Nation’s history… let us recognize the vital role health centers across our country play in carrying us toward greater health for our people,” said President Barack Obama.

HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell also joined in the high praise of health centers with a blog post that also noted health centers’ five decade legacy of providing high quality care:

“Health centers meet some of the highest standards for coordinated, quality care. In fact, today over 69 percent of health centers are recognized by national organizations as patient-centered medical homes, the most promising model of high-quality primary care. The Health Center Program’s focus on quality has done so much good in areas of our country where access to care is limited. Despite treating a sicker, poorer and more diverse population than other health care providers, health centers outperform national averages in chronic disease management, preventive services and perinatal measures.”

And speaking of quality care, NACHC also issued new data this week that shows more Americans than ever are getting quality care at over 24 million patients served nationwide (or 1 in 14 Americans). That also includes a growing number of veterans — 300,000. Also, check out the new NHCW infographic about health centers we just released, “Paving The Road to Good Health.”

Stay tuned to this blog as we keep you informed about the latest NHCW events.