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Celebrating 50 Years of America’s Community Health Centers

August 12, 2015

Even as more Americans have health insurance coverage these days, a serious health care problem persists nationwide: a shortage of places to go to get the primary and preventive care services that everyone needs. A key part of the solution lies in our nation's Community Health Centers, which have provided quality, affordable care for the past five decades, and are increasingly becoming the go-to Patient Centered Medical Home for growing numbers of working Americans.

What began as a modest demonstration program in the mid-1960s has evolved 50 years later into the largest and most successful primary care system in the country. Since their inception, health centers have demonstrated impressive results in reducing infant mortality, improving immunizations rates, developing programs for early screening and treatment of cancer, and managing chronic conditions such as obesity and diabetes. Today, health centers serve more than 23 million Americans, including about seven million children and 260,000 veterans in more than 9,200 communities across the country. The Cape and Vineyard Community Health Center Network; Community Health Center of Cape Cod, Duffy Health Center, Harbor Health, Island Health Services and Outer Cape Health Services provide medical services for over 50,000 Cape Cod and Martha's Vineyard residents.

Why does the demand for health center services continue to grow? One reason is that we are good at what we do. Our Cape and Islands Health Centers outperform most national benchmarks for quality and, health center patients report satisfaction levels of nearly 100 percent. Also, health center services are conveniently offered under one roof and may include dental, pharmacy, mental health and substance abuse counseling, vision, pediatric, geriatric, OB-GYN, and much more. Health centers go beyond simple health care delivery to solve problems that can affect community health, such as nutrition, joblessness, and mental health. There are health centers like ours across the country which save the U.S. healthcare system more than $24 billion every year in reduced overall costs from preventable hospitalizations and avoidable emergency room visits, a figure that dwarfs the federal investments made in their operations. Sustained public investment is critical. Without it, millions of patients could lose access to care and trigger a backlash of increased healthcare costs at a time when 62 million people across the country are already struggling with little or no access to affordable healthcare.

Health centers averted a massive cut to their funding earlier this year thanks to action by Members of Congress such as Congressman Bill Keating. Without their leadership, thousands of families in our community would have lost access to affordable healthcare through the Cape and Vineyard Community Health Center Network. Today, we are grateful for their support and are using National Health Center Week 2015 (August 9-15) to thank them for their vote. Because of their efforts, health centers can continue to serve people and communities in need.

Karen Gardner, CEO
Community Health Center of Cape Cod                       

Heidi R. Nelson, CEO
Duffy Health Center

Nancy Bucken, CEO
Harbor Community Health Center- Hyannis
& Ellen Jones Community Dental Center

Cynthia Mitchell, CEO
Island Health Care, Martha’s Vineyard

Sally Deane, CEO/Executive Director
Outer Cape Health Services, Inc.