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My View on Community Health Center Funding

Thank you to the Cape Cod Times for highlighting the expansion project for Community Health Center of Cape Cod (‘Mashpee Clinic gets a Shot in the Arm,’ July 11, 2011). The article highlights the value of high quality primary care services and their importance to low income residents on Cape Cod. Collectively, the five community health centers that serve the Cape (Community Health Center of Cape Cod, Duffy Health Center, Island Health Care Rural Health Clinic, Mid-Upper Cape Community Health Center and Outer Cape Health Services) served over 34,000 people last year.

The importance of community health centers to the health and well-being of Cape residents cannot be overstated. Consider the construction worker who needs medical care but has lost his health insurance and needs to be re-enrolled. Or the student at Cape Cod Community College suffering from opiate addiction and chronic asthma and needs treatment but doesn’t know where to turn first. Or the single mother who cleans houses and has three small children who need preventive care check-ups. She needs a doctor who she can see in the evening hours and provides an interpreter. These are examples of the people who are served every day at health centers and, for many, the only alternative is to show up at the local emergency room.

We serve the sickest and the poorest among us, and at the same time, quality of care indicators show that health centers produce outcomes equal to or better than the general population for diabetes care, controlling hypertension, and insuring preventive health services.

Our health centers have seen an increased demand for services of 10 to 30% during the recent economic decline. Federal stimulus funds have been critical in helping us to meet the workload and care for those in need and in the process created jobs for Cape Codders.

We have also responded to health reform at the state and national levels. Massachusetts health reform made health insurance accessible to all, and many of the newly insured are served at health centers. The Affordable Care Act, or the ‘health reform bill,’ offered $10 million to expand our facilities- from Duffy Health Center’s new building on Main Street in Hyannis, to CHC of Cape Cod’s new building in Mashpee, and Outer Cape Health Services’ expanded facility in Provincetown. Island Health Care Rural Health Clinic awaits word on a federal grant to provide ongoing funding for primary care services on Martha’s Vineyard. Mid-Upper Cape CHC will be renovating a facility on Attucks Road in Hyannis to open in 2013.

Congress and the President are making decisions which can impact the face of primary care on Cape Cod for many years to come. Already, as part of the FY2011 budget deal, over half a billion dollars were cut from the growth fund to expand community health centers across the country. This puts in jeopardy our plans to increase access to meet current demands.

We ask all Cape Codders to celebrate the accomplishments of our local health centers during National Health Center Week, August 8 through 12. You can promote our continued role in the health care delivery system on the Cape by contacting Congressman Keating and Senators Kerry and Brown and expressing your support for health centers.

Contact: Heidi Nelson, CEO, Duffy Health Center, 508-771-7517