Health centers could cut services if funds not reauthorized

Health centers could cut services if funds not reauthorized”

Montana has 17 community health centers that serve more than 100,000 patients each year.

The plan comes as Congress scrambles to pass a spending bill by Thursday to prevent the second government shutdown this year.

CHCs haven't gotten as much coverage as the Children's Health Insurance Program - but federal funding for community health centers ran out on the same day as CHIP past year, the 30 of September.

Funding for FQHCs, expired on October 1, 2017, putting centers including CommUnityCare and Lone Star Circle of Care in Travis County at risk of running out of federal funding entirely by the end of March, Jason Fournier, CEO of CommUnity Health Care Centers said.

U.S. Senators Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker joined with a bipartisan group calling on the Senate leadership to support reauthorization of community health center funding.

Fournier said about $4.2 million of the organization's funding from the federal program is at risk.

Cindy Smith, CEO of Bullhook Community Health Center in Havre, thanked Tester and said the past 130 days have been challenging for her facility's 70 employees and 5,000 patients. Jon Tester, D-Mont., reiterated his longstanding support for community health centers and praised the two-year deal.

Under the community health center provisions, the continuing resolution includes supplementary awards to help community health centers increase access to primary care services by expanding the use of telehealth.

The CHCF expired on September 30, 2017, jeopardizing access to care for patients and making it hard for community health centers to adequately plan for everything from staffing needs to securing loans for capital projects.

Barbara Shirley, a member of CommUnity Care Center's board of directors, said she first received care at a CommUnity Care Center when she lost her job and her insurance coverage 15 years ago. That same year, she had a heart attack.

"I really appreciate what these people (at Neighborhood Health) did for me", Torres said Tuesday during a news conference at the community health center. "I discovered CommUnityCare. They not only treated my heart condition but other pre-existing conditions as well, such as diabetes, asthma and high cholesterol".

Tester said since 2015 he has gotten grants such as $1.6 million for Glacier Community Health Center in Cut Bank; $1.5 million Cascade County Community Health Center in Great Falls; $919,183 for Custer Community Health Center in Miles City; $716,936 Marias Health Service Shelby and $625,000 for PureView Health Center in Helena.

"We hope strongly that our Congressional members will make the right decision in support of low-resourced individuals and vulnerable populations across the country", Geeslin said.

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