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Community Health Centers are crucial to communities (opinion)


Submitted by Sharon Chamberlain, CEO of Northern Nevada HOPES

National Health Center Week 2020 will be celebrated Aug. 9 – 15, recognizing the work Community Health Centers have done while fighting on the front lines of COVID-19 to keep our communities healthy and safe.

Health centers like Northern Nevada HOPES provide preventive and primary care services to almost 30 million people, and have continued to do so while facing a global pandemic. Community Health Centers provide care to people who disproportionately suffer from chronic disease 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 to the tune of $24 billion a year, reduce rates chronic diseases, and stimulate local economies.

At Northern Nevada HOPES, we provide comprehensive, high-quality medical, behavioral health and wellness services to over 12,000 individuals, kids and families throughout northern Nevada. Our holistic care includes onsite services including primary adult and pediatric care, therapy, medication-assisted treatment, pharmacy, financial coaching, labs, x-ray, HIV/AIDS care, LBTQ care, nutrition, a medical-legal partnership, case management, housing support and much more.

You can show your support for HOPES and Community Health Centers across the country by contacting your Congressional Representative today and sharing your support for funding for CHC’s.

Community Health Centers are not just healers, we are innovators who 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 systems and collaborate with hospitals, local and state governments, social, health and business organizations to improve health outcome for people who are medically vulnerable.

We have pivoted to serving our communities through telehealth, drive through COVID-19 testing, and still ensuring our patients can access basic 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 parts of the United States. Many people live in remote and underserved communities where there is a shortage of providers and, in many cases, the nearest doctor or hospital can be as far as a 50-mile drive in another county.

COVID-19 has hit Nevada’s economy hard with the highest unemployment rate in the country, kicking thousands of individuals off their work-based insurance, increasing the demand for HOPES’ services.

Congress must act immediately for CHCs to continue to serve as health care homes. Emergency and long-term, stable funding for Community Health Centers 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 Nov. 30, 2020. 

I am grateful that Senator Rosen, Senator Cortez Masto and Congressman Amodei have shown leadership in supporting legislation that will protect health centers from losing a major part of our funding.

Show your support during National Health Center Week by supporting a health center in your community by e-mailing your Congressional Representative today. We will be there when you need us.

Sharon Chamberlain is the chief executive officer for Northern Nevada HOPES, a nonprofit community health center in downtown Reno that offers integrated medical care and wellness services.

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