By John Adam
Posted Feb 12, 2018 at 5:56 PM
Updated Feb 12, 2018 at 5:56 PM
WASHINGTON — Four community health centers in the region will receive funding after several months of uncertainty in Washington. The Appomattox Area Health and Wellness Center, the Petersburg Health Care Alliance, the Hopewell-Prince George Community Health Center, and the Dinwiddie Medical and Counseling Center are part of the Community Health Center Fund (CHCF), which funds community health care centers across the country. The funding for the centers ran out in September, and was not immediately reauthorized.
After Congress went back-and-forth about a long-term budget solution for the past month, funding for the centers was ultimately included in the two-year agreement that was passed last week.
“This was the first time I’m aware of that [funding] went several months past the deadline, so of course we were concerned, but we were hopeful because we have always had support from everyone in Congress,” said Amanda Morgan, director of Marketing and Government Affairs for Central Virginia Health Services.
The budget deal calls for $3.8 billion in funds for the centers in fiscal year 2018, and $4 billion in fiscal year 2019. If the money had not been allocated in the budget deal, the centers would have lost 70 percent of their funding.
The centers help area residents who are uninsured or who struggle with finding treatment for the care they need.
“We will take anyone regardless of insurance status,” said Morgan. “If people have a high deductible or copay, we assist them with that. We help anyone who comes through the door.”
In Virginia, there are 124 centers like the ones in the Tri-Cities. According to the National Association of Community Health Centers, these facilities provide care to approximately 286,168 patients, 33 percent of whom are uninsured. Administrators at the Dinwiddie Medical and Counseling Center said that there were 5,708 recorded patient visits in 2017.
Before the budget deal was reached last week, U.S Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA) and Tim Kaine (D-VA) both were part of a bipartisan group of senators who sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) urging them to make sure funding for the centers was included in any bill that would provide the government funding.
“Community health centers serve a vital function, providing affordable health care to our nation’s most vulnerable citizens. They provide quality medical, dental, vision and behavioral health care to more than 27 million patients, including 330,000 of our nation’s veterans and 8 million children, at over 10,000 sites nationwide,” said the senators in the letter.
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