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The Community Health Center Program was established, through Section 330 of the U.S. Public Health Services Act in 1965, with a vision of improving the health status of communities by making medical care more accessible to the poor and traditionally disenfranchised. Today, 56 million people, including many who have health insurance coverage-lack access to a health care home because they live in communities where there is an acute shortage of primary care providers. But it does not have to be that way. Community Health Centers across the country serve as the health care home for 17 million people in over 6,000 communities are recognized as an invaluable part of the nation’s health care delivery system. Every day, Health Centers meet escalating health needs and bring doctors and primary and preventive health services into medically underserved communities. In Maryland and Delaware, our Community Health centers served approximately 360,000 people with over 1,314,000 visits provided in 2010. Community Health Centers are private, nonprofit corporations that provide affordable health services, including primary care, substance abuse, mental health, dental and enabling services. Health Centers are playing a truly integral role in the communities they serve. They provide geographically, culturally and linguistically accessible services to community members.
Community Health Centers are recognized for their successful track record in expanding access to care and providing affordable health care to communities in need, as well as to the most vulnerable in the population. They promote health and prevention through innovative programs that coordinate the delivery of primary care services with outreach, education and social services. At a Community Health Center, no one is denied services, regardless of ability to pay, residential location, age, gender, religion or ethnicity.
There are four key elements to the health center program:
Mission and Strategy
Management and Finance
The mission of Community Health Centers is to increase access to comprehensive, primary and preventative health care and to improve the health status of underserved and vulnerable populations.
Community Health Centers are public or nonprofit agencies governed by a community-based board of directors. At least 51% of a community health centers board of directors must be patients at that health center in order to receive federal funding.
All Health Center programs provide comprehensive primary health care services as well as supportive services (education, translation and transportation, etc.) that promote access to health care.
Management and Finance
Community health centers receive a federal grant to assist the agency in providing care to the underserved. Health centers have stringent financial and data reporting requirements and extensive quality assurance and risk management systems in place.