Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded $10 million dollars to “129 organizations across the country that would like to become community health centers. These funds, made available by the Affordable Care Act, support organizations’ development as a future health center.” Florida, in particular, was awarded about $880,000 — nearly a tenth of the money handed out.
According to a press release from the federal health agency:
Today’s awards fund several community-based entities seeking to provide a more comprehensive range of primary health care services and/or expand their services to the larger community. These include seven organizations traditionally focused on Tribal/Urban Indian health, five targeting mental health services, four geared toward HIV/AIDS services, three focused on faith-based initiatives, and one senior center. The funding announced today will help these organizations plan for the development of a comprehensive primary care health center, so that they can provide care for some of the nation’s most vulnerable populations and potentially create more high-quality jobs in the future for their communities.
“The Health Center Planning Grants help organizations plan to become health centers,” said HRSA Administrator Mary K. Wakefield, Ph.D., R.N. “These awards demonstrate HRSA’s commitment to expanding access to quality preventive and primary health care in high need areas across the country.”
Eligible applicants included public or nonprofit private entities, including tribal, faith-based and community-based organizations. Current Health Center Program grantees were not eligible.
Community health centers are neighborhood medical clinics that provide services to populations that otherwise have little access to health care. The centers are a mixture of public entities and private nonprofits. Almost 400 centers in the Florida receive taxpayer dollars.
The Center for American Progress recently released a report evaluating the importance community health centers in communities all over the country. According to the organization’s report, “community health centers are a crucial source of health care for a diverse group of patients, providing preventive services, treatment, and care management for medically under-served communities.”
Community health centers have been the primary source of medical care for many low-income workers and uninsured people, most of whom are ethnic or racial minorities. They also take care of individuals with disabilities, immigrants and members of the transgender community. According to American Progress, these are “all under-served communities prone to receiving disparate health care services.”
Most importantly, the need for these centers, American Progress reports, is growing:
The patient load in community health centers around the nation is on the rise. The number of people without access to affordable health care—56 million, or one-fifth of Americans, according to the National Association of Community Health Centers—is growing because of rising health care costs for individuals and families and due to persistent unemployment at near-double-digit percentages, which eliminates employer-based health insurance for those workers who lose their jobs and for their families, too.
The need in Florida, in particular, is growing. The state has one of the highest rates of people without insurance in the country.
This year, community health centers in Osceola County lost out on millions of federal dollars because state policy-makers rejected federal funds due to their political opposition to the Affordable Care Act, which allocated the funds for the centers.