Missouri budget makes smart investment in community health centers • Missouri Independent

Each year, National Health Centers Week provides an opportunity to highlight the contributions that Community Health Centers make to our communities. This year, we celebrate not only the exceptional care provided by Community Health Centers, but also the investments Missourians are making to maintain this strong infrastructure.

As the medical home of more than 600,000 Missourians, Community Health Centers are a vital part of our state’s healthcare system. These nonprofit, community-based providers provide high-quality health care in low-income and medically underserved communities, improving health outcomes and reducing health disparities.

They do this job incredibly efficiently — saving more than $24 billion nationally each year in reduced costs for emergency, hospital and specialist care.

Although the community health centers and their staff are experts in providing primary and preventive care, they have also proven to be extremely adaptable to the changing needs of communities, whether assistance in finding affordable insuranceemergency response to a natural disaster or response to a pandemic.

In recent years, with each successive wave of the pandemic, state leaders have relied on community health centers to meet emerging needs. They responded to calls for testing help across the state — showing up to help schools, nursing homes, private businesses, law enforcement and homeless populations — and delivered N95, home testing kits, cutting-edge vaccines and therapies to those who needed them most.

This type of collaboration is not new to Community Health Centers, which routinely work with state and local leaders to reduce duplication of resources, share knowledge and best practices, pilot new innovations, and get the most out of every dollar. When a crisis strikes, these relationships not only save time and money, they save lives. I have seen this time and time again in my more than 20 years working with community health centers as CEO of the Missouri Primary Care Association.

Keeping Missouri’s community health center network strong is critical to our long-term health and our ability to deal with crises. And as we continue to see rural hospitals close, we will need them to expand their services to meet the health care needs of rural residents.

Missouri’s 2023 state budget — signed by Gov. Mike Parson last month — includes nearly $150 million in funding for primary care and behavioral health services. This one-time investment will protect and improve our health infrastructure, ensuring that the community health center facilities, laboratories and skilled workforce that have been so vital in the pandemic response remain ready to serve the people of Missouri. .

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