Washington D.C. – Health Federation of Philadelphia (HFP) staff joined leaders and board members of Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) from across the country in Washington D.C. last Thursday to advocate for continued federal support from members of Congress. At stake is a funding cliff that will decrease community health center funding by 70 percent if not reauthorized by September of 2017.
FQHCs have been established for over fifty years and provide a wide array of health care services for medically underserved communities and populations. They offer a sliding fee scale down to zero payment to ensure that all patients can receive medical care, regardless of insurance status. In the greater Philadelphia area, FQHCs offer comprehensive care for their patients including primary care, nutrition services, eye care, dentistry, foot care, integrated behavioral health services and more.
“What is working in our health care system are our community health centers. Everyone here today – we are a community. We are a community giving care to patients who otherwise wouldn’t have access to that care,” said Patricia Deitch, HFP board chair and president/CEO of the Delaware Valley Community Health Center. “Our patients wouldn’t be able to see a primary care physician, a nutritionist, an eye doctor or a dentist, if not for their community health centers. They know that we care. They know that they are welcome.”
Doctors, nurse practitioners, social workers, administrators, patients and board members from HFP’s member FQHCs met with Julia Cinquegrani, legislative correspondent to Sen. Bob Casey; Theo Merkel, legislative correspondent to Sen. Pat Toomey; Alana Shaw, legislative assistant to Rep. Brendan Boyle; Tierney Smith, legislative assistant to Rep. Robert Brady; Rep. Ryan Costello and his deputy chief of staff and legislative director Dante Cutrona; Darrel Doss, legislative council to Rep. Dwight Evans; Charlotte Pineda, Legislative Assistant to Rep. Fitzpatrick; and Julie Nolan, legislative director to Rep. Patrick Meehan.
Each representative was asked for support in reauthorizing community health center funds for the next five years. Representatives Meehan, Brady, Evans, Boyle, and Costello signed on to Dear Colleague letters demonstrating their support for continued community health center funding.
In addition, FQHC members asked Congress to preserve Medicaid expansion and support workforce development through the National Health Service Corps and teaching health centers. Preserving Medicaid funding is especially critical for the vulnerable populations served by FQHCs in the Greater Philadelphia Area.
Because FQHCs are unique, community-based models, they have been able to expand beyond providing basic care. They generate new ideas and develop new methods of care based on the needs of the populations they serve. Recently, this includes finding solutions to the opioid crisis. Several Pennsylvania FQHCs are classified as Centers of Excellence by the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, including HFP member Community Health and Dental Care in Pottstown. Centers of Excellence provide a team-based approach to opioid-related substance addiction, provide community support throughout treatment and integrate behavioral health and primary care.
“Philadelphia is a hub of innovation in the integration of behavioral and primary care health,” said Suzanne Cohen, HFP’s Senior Director of Population Health. “Community health centers see a need and innovate to address that need. As a result, almost all health centers in Southeastern Pennsylvania have embedded behavioral health consultants who work side by side with primary care teams to address patients with depression and anxiety, as well as to help patients manage chronic diseases.”
Throughout the day FQHC leaders demonstrated how the model works to Congressmen and their staff, who may not otherwise know such details. FQHCs establish lasting relationships between medical providers and patients. The centers also focus on preventative services and continuous, coordinated care in order to cut down on emergency room visits. This, in turn, saves tax payers’ money and lifts the total health of a community. Community health centers treat the whole person, which benefits not only the individual, but families and the entire community.
“We teach. We teach our patients how to manage their care,” said one FQHC member. For this advocacy day in Washington D.C., community health center representatives truly were teachers.
For more information on FQHCs visit the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).
Visit our member page for more information on HFP member FQHCs.