BAKERSFIELD, Calif. – California community health centers are sending teams and equipment to aid hurricane victims, even though the centers are staring down a funding cliff – at risk of losing 70 percent of their federal funding unless Congress takes action by the end of the month.
Clinica Sierra Vista in Bakersfield, for example, sent two 44-foot mobile RV units to Houston last week.
CEO Steven Schilling says they wanted to help the centers in the Lone Star state tend to the medical and dental needs of Harvey survivors.
“Many of those health centers were damaged so severely that they couldn’t be used,” he says. “Some were inaccessible. The Texas staff are taking our mobile units into the neighborhoods where their patients are and where their health centers are unusable.”
The hurricanes are depleting resources across Texas and Florida – just weeks before billions of dollars in federal funding for community health centers expires on September 30. Community health centers serve 27 million Americans every year, regardless of ability to pay.
Dan Hawkins, senior vice president for public policy and research at the National Association of Community Health Centers, says if Congress fails to approve the funding on time, the system would be thrown into chaos.
“They would expect to close at least 2,800 of the 10,000 health-center sites, more than 50,000 staff, and that includes clinicians, to be furloughed and 9 million patients to be denied care if this cliff is not fixed,” he laments.
Funding for the health centers is part of President Trump’s proposed budget – but it is unclear whether Congress will address this issue before current funds run out.