You’ll often hear the term “Community Health Center” from Primary Health Network. However, we’re only one of over 1,300 community health centers throughout the country! PHN isn’t a hospital, and it’s not a part of any local hospital systems. We are a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), and we provide healthcare with the mission of making it affordable for everyone. Since National Health Center Week just passed, join PHN in a brief history of community health centers (CHC).
Did you know that CHCs have been around since 1965? They were created as part of President Johnson’s Office of Economic Opportunity. Their purpose was inspired by the Civil Rights Movement and the War on Poverty, as they were meant to make healthcare affordable for everyone, regardless of race or ability to pay. Today, CHCs operate throughout the country, serving millions of underserved patients!
When you hear “Federally Qualified Health Center,” you might think CHCs are run by the government. Actually, they are community-driven. All health centers, including PHN, are run by a volunteer Board of Directors, composed of community members throughout the health center’s service area. Also, over half of each health center’s board is a patient of the health center.
So, what does it mean to be an FQHC? PHN offers healthcare services to everyone, regardless of ability to pay. This is done through our Sliding Fee Scale, something that all FQHCs have, which reduces the cost of care for qualifying patients, based on income and family size. In doing so, PHN receives annual support from the government in the form of a grant. This annual funding serves to cover PHN’s costs for providing reduced cost or free services to underserved patients. FQHCs are “safety net providers,” meaning we are able to serve those who cannot receive care through commercial healthcare means.
CHCs also open sites in areas that have higher levels of poverty, or those that are lacking services. For example, if an area only has a few doctors, and none of them will accept uninsured patients, this would be the kind of thing a CHC would look for to open a new site. Areas of high need are a top priority for CHCs. Finally, CHCs are driven to provide comprehensive primary healthcare services, as well as enabling services, like the transportation program provided by the PHN Charitable Foundation. It’s the main goal of CHCs to increase access to healthcare, helping connect community members to services, regardless of social or financial difficulties, or any other barriers they may face.
So, the next time you hear someone say “Community Health Center,” remember that CHCs are working for you, to make sure your family, friends, and neighbors can access healthcare and live healthier lives!