For Immediate Release. Contact: Leslie Wolcott, Communications & Emergency Preparedness. Wolcottl@ncchca.org
NCCHCA’s member Community Health Centers (CHCs) are grateful for the announcement this week from the Biden Administration of an important investment in Community Health Centers. This investment, in CHCs across the United States, is intended to increase access to and confidence in the COVID19 vaccine. You can see the North Carolina awards here. NCCHCA expects the funds to be available within the next month. Additional funding announcements for NC’s 3 CHC look-alikes have not yet been made, but are expected.
NC CHCs are extremely thankful that the federal funding opportunity will support a variety of current and anticipated future health center needs related to COVID-19 and, in some cases, cover unreimbursed costs health centers incurred since the pandemic first hit the U.S. dating back to January 31, 2020. Support is also available for basic primary and preventive services not only to maintain current health center services, but also to address “recovery and stabilization” activities in anticipation of serving pent-up demand for different services that people have been postponing due to the pandemic.
During the pandemic, which has now stretched over a year, North Carolina’s Community Health Centers have continued to deliver excellent and affordable primary and other health care services to every patient who needs them, regardless of ability to pay. Beyond that, they have worked to re-engineer both physical spaces and patient flows to protect the health of staff, patients, and the surrounding community. They’ve conducted hundreds of thousands of COVID19 tests, delivered care via telehealth to those who were not comfortable attending in person, and now they are on the front lines of vaccinating America’s most vulnerable populations.
While this funding is generous and much needed, it is specific to COVID19 response and vaccine administration. Community Health Centers in North Carolina continue to fulfill their mission of comprehensive care to hundreds of thousands of patients, with 42% being uninsured. North Carolina is yet to join 38 other states in the expansion of Medicaid, and NC CHCs stand in the breech to provide care and promote our communities’ overall wellness. One of the ways that CHCs benefit patients—by providing discounted medications thanks to a program called 340B—is under threat by those who would pickpocket the savings that health centers now invest in providing more services to patients. Without access to affordable medications, it is challenging for patients to control chronic conditions or recover from illnesses.
North Carolina’s Community Health Centers will, as they always have, squeeze every last penny out of this federal funding to vaccinate the underserved and historically marginalized populations where they have long existed as trusted community partners. They will deliver vaccines safely, efficiently, and with the kindness that they have displayed across the state for many years.
But North Carolina’s Community Health Centers ask the public and elected officials to remember: Our charge is much larger than Covid response. It includes vulnerable and underserved populations with diabetes, heart disease, cancers, and many other chronic and acute needs. These will continue to exist in North Carolina long after COVID is under control. Federal support for COVID relief is just one piece in the puzzle of long-term sustainable funding for CHCs. NC CHCs will continue to care for all their patients, regardless of insurance status or ability to pay, and strive to be ready for the next health emergency, the next pandemic, or the next hurricane as an essential part of NC’s health care safety net.