Keep community health centers open

It is true that we are in a very divisive political environment.

Debate on health care is one issue that everyone relates to in some way which can bring out impassioned reactions.

This reaction is likely because health care is also one issue that has a real impact on everyone’s life and oftentimes has a long-lasting impact on their quality of life.

Despite the challenge this situation represents, for over 50 years, Community Health Centers, such as the River Valley Health and Dental Center, have been committed to providing high quality medical, dental and behavioral health care to residents of the River Valley community to include vulnerable individuals possessing few options for doctors.

We are innovators that have led models of care; reacted to public health crises like the opioid epidemic, Zika virus, and AIDS/HIV; and offer programs like reduced prescription drugs to low-income patients.

However, health centers such as ours are facing a drastic funding cut due to inaction from Congress in September and if action is not taken before 2018, patients using these health centers for care will find closed offices, reduced staff and fewer services available.

Essentially a barrier to care will be created for people that have not been able to find a medical home outside the health center.

For perspective, in 2017, River Valley Health and Dental Center has seen significant demand in over the recent years, and now provides care to over 14,800 patients with our 95 employees.

We are proud to stabilize medical conditions, provide support to individuals in crisis and offer care for generations of our neighborhood families.

While we have clinical outcome metrics publicly available for anyone to see, we cannot fully quantify how many lives River Valley Health and Dental Center has saved or how many patients we treated in our office rather than through an expensive emergency room visits.

We can say, that as part of a nationwide network of primary care providers, we have proven to be effective clinicians that have saved taxpayers billions of dollars every year based on our preventive care.

No one can refute the positive contributions made by Community Health Centers, that’s why both parties have supported us for decades.

Sadly, the past bi-partisan support may not be enough to help centers such as ours and those hospitals that have come to rely on partnerships with us to improve preventive care for vulnerable patients.

This important effort is why we urge congress to take serious attention NOW to continue funding health centers before we experience a reduction of up to 70 percent in 2018.

Congress needs to fix this funding cliff to allow Community Health Centers to continue providing care to 24 million patients across the nation.

The worthwhile investment in health center comes back to employers with healthier workers, taxpayers with fewer insurance premium charges or ER wait times and improved overall public health.

If the health center funding cut takes place, it will be patients that suffer and no one can afford for that to happen.

Yoxtheimer is CEO/President of the River Valley Health and Dental Center.