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Support Your Local Community Health Center

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, March 19, 2014

Healthcare leaders and community leaders who aren't actively working to shore up funding for community health centers stand to damage a valuable primary care resource and the vulnerable population it serves.

Community hospitals, critical access hospitals and other safety net and primary care providers are challenged enough just keeping the doors open and the lights on in this era of reduced reimbursements and narrowing bottom lines. These providers could be excused if they were to adopt an "everyone for themselves" attitude when it comes to pleas for more funding.

Fortunately, most of the frontline providers I've spoken with over the years understand that no successful provider is simply an island of care cut off from the other providers in the community. There has to be coordination and cooperation among providers to improve community health.

That emphasis will only intensify in the coming years with the evolution of population health, the continuing shortage of skilled clinicians, and the expectation that providers will have to do more with fewer resources.

With this in mind, hospital leadership would be well advised to reexamine their relationships with and support for their local community health centers.

Specifically, Federally Qualified Health Centers face a 70% reduction in mandatory funding along with potentially other discretionary cuts as an election-year Congress thumbs through the budget. Funding reductions of that magnitude would shutter many health centers, or at least force staff layoffs and reduce services at a time when demand for care is growing.

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