Michigan Community Health Centers Gear Up to Celebrate National Health Center Week 2011

Community Health Centers across Michigan are celebrating National Health Center Week 2011 with special events next week, August 7-13, as part of a week-long campaign to raise awareness about the mission and accomplishments of America’s Health Centers as local solutions. A big thank you goes out to Governor Rick Snyder for proclaiming next week as National Health Center Week in Michigan.

The theme of this year’s National Health Center Week, “Celebrating America’s Health Centers: Serving Locally, Leading Nationally,” underscores how Community Health Centers deliver a unique approach that targets health needs and saves taxpayer dollars. They are strong partnerships of people, governments, and communities who work together to meet the unique and diverse health conditions of the community.  Although Community Health Centers rely on a portion of federal funding, they are locally-owned non-profit organizations that are led by a patient-majority governing board who guides how limited resources can be effectively directed to meet the health care needs of the community.

One of the bright spots in America’s health care system, Health Centers provide a health care home to over 20 million people nationwide, including nearly 600,000 Michigan residents.  Their model of care was rated as one of the most effective programs by then-President George W. Bush’s Office of Management and Budget. Presidents from both parties and Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have long-recognized the value of Health Centers and supported their expansion.  Health Centers were on track to increase their patient capacity to 40 million patients by 2015.  This expansion would have brought comprehensive Health Center services such as immunizations, prenatal care, dentistry, and mental health services to communities that lack them today. However, in today’s tight fiscal climate, Health Centers now face significantly reduced federal support, leaving little for expansion efforts and little hope for the communities that currently lack a Health Center and desperately need one.

With more health care homes in communities we can reduce health care costs and unnecessary hospitalizations and visits to emergency rooms.  According to the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC), there are 60 million people in the country with limited or no access to primary care providers – a trend that shows no sign of improving with the economic recession.

“Every day in Community Health Center waiting rooms across the state, Michigan residents experience the value of having a health care home,” said Kim Sibilsky, Executive Director, Michigan Primary Care Association. “When people have a place to go for regular primary and preventive care, they use it and stay healthier. Community Health Centers provide a variety of services onsite – primary care services, pediatrics, pharmacy, dentistry, mental health services. And they reach beyond the four walls to collaborate with community organizations and other resources to ensure residents get the care they need, when they need it. This is what health care should be, and what we celebrate during National Health Center Week.”

Now more than ever public support is needed for Health Centers as Congress attempts to reduce the budget deficit with spending cuts to the program and changes to Medicaid that could further reduce access to primary and preventive care for millions of people. To find out more, please visit www.nachc.org

National Health Center Week is sponsored by the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC). To find out more about National Health Center Week, visit www.healthcenterweek.org.  To learn more about Michigan Community Health Centers, go to www.mpca.net.

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