Community Health Centers Are Golden

Every year during the Community Health Institute (CHI) and Expo we hold a Twitter contest to encourage attendees to share and join the conversation on social media. To celebrate the Community Health Center Movement’s Golden Anniversary (50 years), this year we included one Twitter contest that was a bit different. We asked CHI participants to tell us why they believe Community Health Centers are golden and snap photo that we could share on Twitter. We had over 40 participants. Here’s what a few of them had to say about why health centers are golden.

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Thank you to all those who participated! Feel inspired? Tell us why you think Community Health Centers are golden in the comments or Tweet us using #CHC50.

August Was A Big Month for Community Health Centers

August was a busy month in terms of news coverage about Community Health Centers.   The headlines kicked off with a very successful National Health Center Week (NHCW) featuring thousands of events across the country that highlighted the critical services Community Health Centers offer their communities. There were health fairs, press conferences, celebrations, health screenings, visits by Members of Congress and other elected officials  to their local health center — and much more.  Many Primary Care Associations and health centers also reached out to the media, resulting in news stories in local broadcasts and newspapers.

In Oklahoma, John M. Silva, CEO of Morton Comprehensive Health Services, wrote about the ongoing bipartisan support for health centers in a Tulsa World op-ed:

“Health centers recently averted a massive funding cut earlier this year thanks to strong bipartisan action by the Oklahoma Congressional delegation. Without this leadership, hundreds of families in our community would have lost access to affordable health care in Morton’s system.”

 Kathy Wood-Dobbins, CEO of the Tennessee Primary Care Association,  also penned an op-ed that was featured in The Tennessean, and described the impact health centers have on patients, noting:

“Beyond the walls of the health centers are resources that are out of reach for uninsured patients, including certain diagnostic services, treatment for illnesses such as cancer, necessary hospitalizations and lifesaving treatments… About 280,000 Tennesseans are caught in a gap that leaves them ineligible for insurance in the Affordable Care Act’s health care marketplace and also ineligible for TennCare coverage.”

Just days before the Community Health Institute (CHI) & Expo began, an editorial from The New York Times praised contributions of health centers to the health system and as well as their long history of bipartisan support:

“Today the health centers have become the largest primary care system in the United States. They serve some 23 million patients a year in over 9,000 locations across the country. Their professional association says they save the health care system some $24 billion a year by providing timely treatment and preventive care designed to meet local needs and preferences. The government says their quality of care equals and often surpasses that delivered by other primary care providers.”

As the NACHC CHI was ending, the Huffington Post featured an article about the Community Health Center Movement and its shared history with the Civil Rights Movement. The article was written by Ellen Lawton from the National Center for Medical-Legal Partnerships and co-authored by H. Jack Geiger:

“Sickness and injustice are joined at the hip, like the proverbial Siamese twins. What’s more, they reinforce each other. Half a century ago, we observed that the poor are likelier to be sick, the sick are likelier to be poor and that without intervention, the poor will grow sicker and the sick will grow poorer. We have made great strides in the past 50 years in addressing these connections…”

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!