Each year, National Health Center Week presents an opportunity to spotlight the contributions that community health centers make to our communities. This year, we are celebrating not only the outstanding care that community health centers provide, but also the investment Missourians are making to keep this infrastructure strong.
As the medical home to more than 600,000 Missourians, community health centers are an essential piece of our state’s health system. These non-profit, community-driven providers deliver high-quality health care in low income and medically underserved communities, improving health outcomes and narrowing health disparities.
They do this work incredibly efficiently — saving more than $24 billion nationally each year in reduced emergency, hospital and specialty care costs.
While community health centers and their staff are experts in providing primary and preventative care, they have also proven to be extremely adaptable to communities’ changing needs, whether that be assistance finding affordable insurance, emergency response to a natural disaster, or pandemic response.
Over the past few years, through each successive wave of the pandemic, state leaders have depended on community health centers to respond to emerging needs. They’ve answered calls for help with testing across the state — showing up to assist schools, nursing homes, private businesses, law enforcement and homeless populations — and delivered N95s, at-home test kits, vaccines and cutting-edge therapies to people who needed them most.
This kind of collaboration is not new to community health centers, which routinely work with state and local leaders to reduce duplication of resources, share knowledge and best practices, pilot new innovations, and stretch every dollar. When a crisis hits, these relationships don’t just save time and money, they save lives. I have seen this time and time again in my more than 20 years working with community health centers as CEO of Missouri Primary Care Association.
Keeping Missouri’s network of community health centers strong is essential for our long-term health and ability to weather crises. And as we continue to see rural hospitals close, we’ll need them to expand their services to meet rural residents’ health care needs.
Missouri’s 2023 state budget – signed by Gov. Mike Parson last month – includes nearly $150 million in funding for primary care and behavioral health services. This one-time investment will safeguard and enhance our health infrastructure, ensuring that the community health centers’ facilities, labs, and skilled workforce that were so vital in the pandemic response remain ready to serve the people of Missouri.