This week marks National Health Center Week 2021. It is a time to acknowledge and thank the elected officials who move beyond the partisan divide over health care to support and agree on a program vital to our communities. Like so many other essential health care workers, Community Health Centers have responded to the call to keep our communities healthy and safe during COVID-19.
Community Health centers 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 dollars a year, reduce rates chronic diseases, and stimulate local economies.
At NorthLakes, we provide integrated, primary care services in 12 rural communities throughout northern Wisconsin. We 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, community and in-clinic COVID-19 vaccinations, all while still ensuring our patients can access basic necessities like food and housing resources.
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. In rural Wisconsin, we’re blessed to have many partners committed to helping us ensure everyone has access to health care, but there is much work to be done.
Congress must act immediately for CHCs to continue to serve as health care homes. Long-term and stable funding for Community Health Centers will ensure we can keep our doors open and close the growing access gap for medically vulnerable communities. Show your support during National Health Center Week by supporting a health center in your community and advocating to your local, state and federal legislators about the value we bring to your community.
Reba Rice, CEO
NorthLakes Community Clinic