On March 22, 2018, Congress passed an Omnibus fiscal year 2018 spending bill that funds the government through September 30, 2018. This included a new budget for the US Department of Health and Humans Services. Included in that budget were several items important to community health center patients, most importantly CHC discretionary funding, which accounts for 30% of all CHC federal funding.
In the new budget, Community Health Centers received $1.626 billion in discretionary funding. When added to the mandatory funding that Community Health Centers received in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, CHCs will have a total of $5.4 billion in 2018 federal funding. The bulk of the funding will be used to continue ongoing base grants and fund health center operations.
Some of the money has specific goals: 200 million of Section 330 grant dollars will be directed to quality improvement or service expansion grants to support behavioral health, mental health or substance use disorder services. $20 million will be used to replenish the Health Center Loan Guarantee Program, and $105 million will go to the National Health Services Corps (NHSC) program to expand delivery of substance use disorder treatment services. When added to earlier funding from the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, NHSC will have a total of $415 million in federal funding for FY18. The latest legislation also expands NHSC loan repayment eligibility to substance use disorder counselors.
North Carolina Community Health Centers served more than 520,000 patients in 2016. There are now 42 CHCs operating in North Carolina, with over 220 CHC sites located in 85 counties and serving patients from all areas of the state. Community Health Centers are governed by the patients that use their services and excel at empowering patients to take personal responsibility for improving their own health outcomes. They provide services including primary medical care, dental, pharmacy and behavioral health services. Wrap-around services are used to address patient needs that go beyond the provider visit. Serving on the front lines in the fight against the opioid abuse epidemic and childhood obesity, CHCs operate as the only comprehensive providers of healthcare in many rural areas of our state. Community Health Centers accept Medicaid, Medicare, and commercial insurance, but also offer sliding fees to assure that care is accessible to low-income and uninsured persons.