By: Dan Hawkins
Over the course of the past few months, and especially in these recent weeks, we have called on you to take action as a Health Center Advocate more times than we can count. Your response has been incredible – collectively you have generated thousands of social media posts showing how you #ValueCHCs, placed nearly 25,000 phone calls, and sent over 150,000 emails demanding action from Congress to fix the health center funding cliff. From Congressional efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, the health center funding cliff, and countless state based challenges. This year will go down in history as a trying year for health centers and their patients. In spite of those challenges, it is your advocacy that has carried us forward, allowing us to persevere through even the toughest threats for the Health Center Program and the 27 million patients health centers serve.
Regardless of the challenges we face as Health Centers, I ask you to remember that grassroots advocacy – the power of our communities to create change – is at the foundation of the Health Center Movement. Just over 50 years ago, the Health Centers Program began as a couple of Neighborhood Health Centers in Dorchester, Massachusetts and Mound Bayou, Mississippi. Now, through the power of advocacy and the commitment of advocates to increase access to care, health centers are able to serve over 9,000 communities in every single state and territory of this country, caring for more than 27 million patients. By empowering their communities and treating everyone in this country with the respect and dignity they deserve, Health Centers have given their patients access to the health care they need and deserve. Moreover, these patients chose to go to health centers for the quality, the service, and the mission.
Make no mistake, Health Centers have been tried and tested countless times throughout our history. Proposals to make drastic cuts to services for those most vulnerable in our country, cuts to the payments health centers receive through Medicaid, direct cuts to health center grant dollars – each has been proposed and garnered both attention and even support among some policymakers in the past. And yet, health centers not only persevered - sustaining their mission and the care they provide their patients – as a Program and network of providers, health centers have thrived. Even in the most challenging environments, the size and impact of the Health Center Program has grown – doubling in size again and again - bringing us ever closer to truly achieving quality access to care for all.
As Dr. Martin Luther King said, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” The road for health centers is long and winding, but through our commitment to the value of community-based care and to advocating unrelentingly, we continue to make our way closer to a society to achieving our collective mission. In day-to-day life, the health center mission translates to a world where preventable illnesses are a thing of the past, where going to the doctor doesn’t break the bank, and where all communities in this country have the opportunity to thrive – this is the health center story and this is our common goal as Health Center Advocates.
Without question, all of us involved with health centers are advocates and we will continue to FIGHT for our patients, our communities, and our mission no matter the opposition, obstacles, or demands. Our history tells us the story of the power of advocacy – it is our advocacy, YOUR advocacy that will carry us through as we continue to create new opportunities to broaden our reach and better serve our communities.
Thank you for your advocacy – know that it is powerful and effective. And, most importantly, know that your advocacy is what will ensure that health centers continue thriving, caring for all those in need, for decades to come.