BETHESDA, Md., Sept. 28, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is awarding nearly $1 billion to Community Health Centers across the nation. Announced today, the funds from the American Rescue Plan will support construction and renovation projects to expand facilities, as well as for mobile medical units, telehealth technology, freezers for vaccine storage and other capital needs related to COVID-19.
«Health centers are lifelines for many of our most vulnerable families across the country, especially amidst the pandemic,» said Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, in a press release issued by HHS. «Thanks to American Rescue Plan funds, we’re modernizing facilities across the country to better meet the most pressing public health challenges associated with COVID-19. This historic investment means we get to expand access to care for COVID-19 testing, treatment and vaccination – all with an eye towards advancing equity.»
The announcement comes as health centers, often called the backbone of «America’s public health care system,» are engaged on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic, completing more than 15 million vaccinations and diverting non-acute COVID cases from overwhelmed hospitals, despite experiencing widespread staff shortages and burnout. Health centers also rapidly ramped up virtual visits with a 98 percent adoption rate to ensure patients continue to receive vital services, such as wellness checks or behavioral health visits. Continuity of care is essential for health center patients, the majority of whom are low-income, suffer from multiple chronic health conditions and are uninsured or rely on public insurance programs, such as Medicaid and Medicare.
«The last significant investment in infrastructure for health centers was over a decade ago when health centers served less than 18 million patients,» said Mike Holmes, Board Chair of the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC). «Today, we have nearly doubled our patient base and are fighting to bring an end to the pandemic. Infrastructure and workforce investment will allow us to continue the job Congress and the Administration are asking us to do: to care for a growing aging population, our veterans, public housing residents, agricultural workers, rural residents, and the homeless and meet them where they are with services that save lives.»
According to a recent analysis by Capital Link, Inc., health center capital needs through 2025 are expected to total $17.5 billion, including funds to repair, replace and upgrade existing infrastructure as well as build capacity to serve up to 38.5 million patients by 2025. Congress is currently considering providing $10 billion for health center capital projects as part of the Build Back Better Act.
Established in 1971, the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) serves as the national voice for America’s Health Centers and as an advocate for health care access for the medically underserved and uninsured.
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SOURCE National Association of Community Health Centers