By Christy Trimmer Boland and Maureen Maxwell, Colorado Community Health Network
This week (and well into next) we are celebrating National Health Center Week. It’s our opportunity to invite our neighbors and supporters into our Community Health Centers (CHCs) to see what we do and celebrate the wonderful people who work at CHCs.
For 46 years, Colorado’s CHCs have offered a unique, innovative model of care that sets them apart from other primary care providers. The success of the Community Health Center movement is rooted in the way CHCs are cultivated and directed by local communities. Patients must make up the majority of the board that governs each CHCs, which ensures accountability to and support from the local community.
CHCs, also known as federally qualified health centers, are located in areas of high need and provide comprehensive primary and preventive medical, dental, and mental health services to low-income working families, on a sliding fee scale to keep care affordable. CHCs reduce health disparities and barriers to care, improve health outcomes, and lower health system costs while empowering communities to actively direct their own care.
Fifteen CHCs operate 141 clinic sites in 34 Colorado counties and care for patients living in 57 counties. Recent grants made possible by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will increase the number of Colorado CHCs to 17. In addition, CHCs provide jobs in health care careers to more than 3,500 Coloradans.
The ACA expanded the funding available for CHCs, a big help for Colorado. There are hundreds of thousands of people in our state without access to a regular source of health care. The CHC model of care will be key to changing that, offering both high quality and cost effectiveness. According to a 2011 Health Affairs article, Medicaid patients who use a CHC are about one-third less likely than patients of other providers to have an emergency room visit, an inpatient hospitalization, or a preventable hospital admission.
A plan developed by the Colorado Community Health Network and Colorado’s CHCs, called Access for All Colorado, maps out how Colorado’s CHCs plan to serve as the health care home to one million Coloradans, double the current number. CHCs are moving forward in a decisive way to make access for all Coloradans a reality.
For more information about Colorado CHCs, please visit www.cchn.org