Community Health Centers Are Frontline Responders to Prevent Virus Spread in Communities
Contact: Amy Simmons Farber, 301-347-0400 Asimmons@nachc.org
Washington – This week the House and Senate approved a bipartisan $8.3 billion package that includes $100 million in funding for Community Health Centers to address the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic. Health centers are frontline responders to the spreading virus. They are working in partnership with public health departments to screen, monitor and help contain the person-to-person spread of the virus in communities and reduce the burden on overwhelmed hospital emergency rooms.
“Community Health Centers are increasingly trusted, critical, first responders in times of national emergencies,” said Tom Van Coverden, President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC). “We serve 29 million of our neediest fellow Americans – the people who are hardest hit by epidemics such as the coronavirus outbreak. While we requested more funding, Congressional leaders have assured us that we will be given the resources we need to address this epidemic.”
COVID-19 has caused a widespread shortage of personal protective equipment – masks, gloves, face shields, gowns, and similar protective barriers. There has also been an upsurge of patient visits and calls to health centers as the numbers of people infected with the virus continues to climb in the U.S. Health centers, who have an established record of emergency preparedness with public health outbreaks, are developing clinical protocols and building response systems in partnership with federal, state authorities, local public health departments, community stakeholders, and disaster relief-based non-profits. With hospital closures happening in greater numbers, health centers are essential to the nation’s response strategy.
“At a time that our nation is facing another public health crisis with the spread of COVID-19, now is the best time to bolster existing public health and primary care resources,” said Van Coverden. “As Congress addresses this emergency, it is more critical than ever to reauthorize critical, long-term, and stable funding for essential programs like the Community Health Center Fund, Teaching Health Centers, and the National Health Service Corps.
Health centers are currently functioning under a temporary funding measure. The lack of long-term, stable funding makes it challenging to recruit and hire providers, plan services, or expand capacity at a time when a sustained and robust public health response is needed.
The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) recently called on Congressional leaders to make long-term funding for health centers a top priority.
Established in 1971, the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) serves as the national voice for America’s Health Centers and as an advocate for health care access for the medically underserved and uninsured.