NEW HAMPSHIRE - For the past several decades, Community Health Centers (CHCs) have earned the support of Democrats and Republicans at the state and federal level. Regardless of party majority, the cost-effective, community-based CHC model of care that integrates medical, dental, and behavioral health services has broad support. A track record of quality health outcomes for patients, combined with the open door accessibility of the CHCs (public and private insurance accepted, and a sliding fee based on income for those with no insurance), earns high marks in Congress and in state legislatures.
With the delivery of affordable health care a top priority for lawmakers, NH's Congressional Delegations are taking time to tour New Hampshire CHCs and gain a deeper understanding of the health care delivery and support system. Senator Shaheen, Congressman Bass, Senator Ayotte, and Congressman Guinta met with CHC directors and toured Community Health Centers in Berlin, Franklin, and Manchester. Meetings with providers and community leaders were held to discuss access to health care for all New Hampshire residents and to review the latest data on "patient health outcomes" tracked by Community Health Centers through their Electronic Medical Records systems.
Senator Jeanne Shaheen reconfirmed her long-standing support of CHCs when she spoke of the integral role they play in providing New Hampshire families with high-quality, low-cost health care, during a visit to the Coos County Family Health Services in Berlin. "Community Health Centers provide critical services to all residents of the community, regardless of their ability to pay," said Shaheen. "Investing in our Community Health Centers is the smart thing to do."
Congressman Charles F. Bass toured Health First Family Care Center (Health First) in Franklin with Executive Director Richard Silverberg and Tess Stack Kuenning, executive director of Bi-State Primary Care Association (Bi-State). With medical offices in Franklin and Laconia, Health First provides primary and preventative health care to medically underserved populations in 13 rural communities in central New Hampshire. Silverberg noted that Health First is seeing a new group of patients, people who "have never used the "safety-net" of Community Health Centers before" - people who have lost their jobs and their health insurance. In 2009, more than 1,000 Health First patients were uninsured; most qualified for significantly reduced payments on the sliding fee scale based on income and family size. Congressman Bass was well-informed about the health centers and said, "This program is a priority for me. It's a model I like. If I have an opportunity to vote to maintain it, I will."
Senator Ayotte toured Manchester Community Health Center (MCHC) and met with CEO Edward George, several board members, senior staff, and Bi-State's executive director, Tess Stack Kuenning. Senator Ayotte was impressed with the impact MCHC has in the community and pledged to work closely with Community Health Centers while fulfilling her new obligations to the community. MCHC provides primary care to more than 6,000 patients annually, half of whom are uninsured. "I very much appreciate the Community Health Centers' role in providing quality primary health care, not only to those without access to care, but to the whole community through a coordinated model of care," she said. "There is a great need to support and grow the Community Health Centers."
Tess Stack Kuenning and Ed George met with Congressman Frank Guinta at his office to discuss New Hampshire's integrated CHC system and their cost-effective model of care. Congressman Guinta demonstrated a strong interest and substantial knowledge about the health centers. "Community Health Centers are not-for-profits that know how to run a business that brings services, human resources, and financial capital to the table; and [how to] solve problems for our community. I support an expansion of this program to fill a need in our community," Guinta said.
As leaders in the movement to provide a Patient-Centered Medical Home model of care, NH's 16 Community Health Centers with 32 locations statewide, provided health care services to 112,000 residents last year. NH's Community Health Centers employ more than 1,000 clinicians and staff, and have an annual economic impact in excess of $77 million.(1)
Celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2011, Bi-State Primary Care Association, serving New Hampshire and Vermont, is a nonpartisan, nonprofit 501(c) 3 charitable organization working to improve access to health care services for residents by developing effective health care policy, recruiting clinical providers, and providing training and technical assistance to communities and Community Health Centers. For a list of Community Health Centers in New Hampshire and Vermont, visit: www.bistatepca.org.
1) Source 'CHCs Lead the Primary Care Revolution' - Economic Impact Analysis prepared by Capital Link/ 2009 UDS data.
Directions to Bow Office:
From I-89N - Exit 2, turn left (13 S), travel 3 miles to 525 Clinton Street on left.
From I-89S - Exit 2, turn right (13S), travel 3 miles to 525 Clinton Street on left.
Directions online: www.bistatepca.org/locations.htm