What is a Community Health Center?



every person I see reminds me of me any of them could have been me it was me and I don't think there's any reason friend II want to be turned away for any kind of medical care today was a typical morning for me and I saw patients speaking English patients speaking Spanish Somali Arabic Vietnamese and Burmese those were my patients this morning and that is where I met my greatest impact because I'm able to prevent illness and that's what this is all about preventive medicine I don't care what kind of insurance you have or whether you don't have you're gonna get the best care here so if you don't have insurance now when you get insurance you still come see stern and but while others are talking about health care and how to improve access to services our community health centers have been doing it and have been doing it for 40 years I am very alive and well and it's all due to the community health center and if it wasn't for them I probably wouldn't be alive right now sometimes I get a lot of phone calls are you diabetic well we want to take care of your says no you don't have to right I got people who are doing that already it's a place where you're gonna get excellent care my people who do care my Community Health Center has been crucial to giving me a healthy body I can use my pretty good mind and my loving God spirit to help others now what more do you need for the good life America's community health centers this is our story in the early 1960s our nation was awakened to the reality of millions of Americans living in poverty uninsured with no access to medical attention and at that time we knew there were people mostly older who made the choice between food or medicine and that was in the real world kids we were driving them to get their teeth extracted permanent teeth you know and so children who were compromising the whole future because they didn't have basic health care in her area his response to me was that he just needed someplace to go and everybody just needs some place to go and that's what we need to be pioneers servants of the community doctors nurses community leaders volunteers all began to take a stand and address this growing health care epidemic well the health center movement really started in the 60s and I like to think of it as an experiment that really worked the year was 1965 and in mound Bayou Mississippi and the Columbia Point neighborhood in Boston doctors Jack Geiger and count Gibson pushed forward a radical new idea it would change the course of healthcare delivery a community-based model of health care that was to serve all people regardless of their ability to pay and give patients a voice in how that care was delivered someone had to do it someone had to become a community health center we'd do whatever it took in order to get one started so we had dream we had a dream and it would definitely was the case of if you build it they will come but at the same time we realized that out there was a community health center movement going on in the United States and that arrangement seemed perfect because it allowed a clinic to take care of Medicaid patients as well as uninsured patients plus you could include your own insured patients if you wanted to obviously I knew nothing about running nothing I knew how to be a nurse and I knew how to be compassionate with people and understand their needs but so I was learning as I took this job pretty much by volunteers volunteer doctors and nurses so we didn't have any resources we didn't have any budget we didn't have any supplies we didn't have any equipment so one of our volunteers who is a very bright college student decided that he was going to build his own medical equipment so he went out and bought some spare parts and he built a centrifuge equipment was old and had been retrieved from charitable donations of some kind or another Jack used to say that the x-ray equipment came off the Mayflower it was it was pretty old but it worked a copy machine was a big deal back then you know you know really I say I was I was living out of my checkbook and so the the first person I really needed to hire was a finance person so I could get some money back in return so back there in the old days I had to literally write the grants write the progress reports and sometimes see that the Billings went out on time a couple of times had even closed the books I don't know where we're gonna get $70,000 what do you think we should do so I said simple you and I go write a check for $1,000 and all we gotta do is find 69 more people to do the same so he said okay you're in charge and I said I need your shot and I have some cold cash I'd like to buy your build and he looked at me like what where are you coming from since then community health centers have delivered basic health care services to thousands of communities in need they have evolved into a vital safety net for the uninsured and vulnerable so for example at Family Care Health Center patients can come here they can see me for their primary care and right on staff in the same facility we have a lactation consultant we have a nutritionist we have a dentist we have our own pharmacy we have a psychiatrist and the list goes on and on in terms of support services that I can draw on in order to take care of my patients needs community health centers today do much more than basic primary care through the years we have developed expertise in identifying and treating chronic conditions today if you look at our facilities they're state-of-the-art they're digital x-rays we're paperless we have all the technologies that you'll find in private practice and sometimes even better technologies our clinics and our physicians are so in tune with making sure that their patients have something that they can afford something that they can live out the rest of life being able to take care of themselves I love it when I get somebody who comes in they're paying a lot of money for a brand only prescription drug and we can say them so much money they say hey I can't believe you guys can be Walmart's price so not only is it the healthcare arena the dental care is also the investment back into the community of the jobs that we bring into the community and the lives that we touch within the community quality health care to high quality health care for all because the health care delivery that I provide is no different from 110 West 97th Street and Park Avenue it's the same thing I feel very fortunate that it was very unique opportunity to both see patients and kind of get that one-on-one interaction with patients and yet also work on a level where I'm looking at the population also looking a very unique disease hepatitis B that's very common in Asians and I can't tell you how appreciative that mother is when she comes in and says this is the difference between my child succeeding in school our being in the disciplinarians office it's that big of an impact we've got second and now third generations of families that are still coming to our institution to receive our services which is a very warm feeling I mean we are the resource that they depend on to make it to the next day if we weren't here I don't know where those people would go I really don't I think it would be difficult I think we're finally making a dent in the population of kids who have never seen a dentist it really is a movement it's came out of the civil rights and that became very meaningful across the country with bipartisan support we're not out there competing to steal patients from one another we're out there to compete for those patients to get them in the door that otherwise just would go without healthcare it's getting them off the street motivated and kind of engaged in their own health care there's a lot of physicians who are willing to take care of people that have money and some of us need to take care of folks that don't have money and so that's my job today community health centers are located in all 50 United States US territories and the nation's capital and with 8,000 locations they are serving over 20 million people but the demand for health care is at an all-time high unfortunately there's some areas that have third world conditions and so we are severely lacking and we have a lot of need southern Jersey sees so many migrant farmworkers who would have no other place to go to answer this need community health centers have launched a plan called access for all America this plan will expand health centers into more communities to serve over 30 million people by the Year 2015 it's well documented from government studies and private studies that community health centers are more cost effective and provide higher quality care than some of our comparable sisters and brothers and hospitals and private practices so we know what's going on we know what people need and it's easier for us to get the things done if we sit you know smart enough right enough set up system like this and there's interest by of course of the federal authorities by Congress by the president because they know that these house centers we work it works I mean we work with the community we work with the community and we have good outcomes we save money you just know how to do it there's just too many good doctors here i I think these are the best doctors in Springfield I really do call it Revenge of the Nerds call it The Ugly Duckling becoming a beautiful swan but ambulatory care medicine is really where it's at these days medical home means that we're kind of a family when we take care of our patients and that's that's how we want them to think about because not only do we tap into the normal mainstream community we touch the unreachable or the inaccessible or the people who think that you know just because they're homeless they have no quote/unquote right to care and when you give them that access you give them power and once you give them power you help them with a situation which is what community health centers are about in the first place our future our children and if they can start brushing their teeth and you can educate parents then they can have a mouth with no cavities for the rest of their life if they're you know they're properly educated so I really think that the next generation the next moves for these community health centers is going to be in a way that takes that great foundation of top-notch medicine that the clinicians brought to community health centers it's going to marry that with technology and consolidated information and it's going to create an explosion of efficiency in the community health center movement I believe in the mission I believe what we're doing is right that the seeds that we plant each and every day in a community health center with our patients with our staff will at some point bear fruit for some what America's community health centers provide comprehensive primary and preventive care to all regardless of income or insurance status now I'm on the other side of the fence and we do have insurance and it's the same I mean no one knows no one treats you any differently you come they just ask for your card they put it in and that is simply that countless numbers of studies show that America's community health centers provide cost-effective quality care save lives keep people out of emergency rooms and save millions of dollars for American taxpayers and the nation's health care system America's community health centers are locally owned and controlled by their communities through consumer majority boards of directors they train doctors nurses dentists and other health care workers needed now and into the future they continue to have long-standing bipartisan support by Congress state lawmakers corporate America and the small business community they provide thousands of jobs across the country for community residents and today America's community health centers are being called upon by the nation to lead the way in primary care into the future you know it is imperative that we continue to advocate for these agencies that are providing outstanding services and care to the folks as I said earlier they need it most when we talk about gatekeepers community health Sarge to be those those kind of clinics I am very alive and well and it's all due to the community health center and if it wasn't for them if I wouldn't be alive right now

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