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Community Health Centers Get a Boost

By Dr. Kohar Jones

Community health centers across the country are getting a big boost from the Affordable Care Act: over the next five years, we will get $9.5 billion to expand services, and $1.5 billion for major construction and renovation projects. 

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced this week that $728 million have already been awarded for 398 renovation and construction projects in health centers across the country. With this money, there are 67 new health centers under construction now, and 190 health centers that will be able to renovate and expand their services. This will build the capacity to serve an anticipated 860,000 additional patients.

Federal funds have already helped the Chicago Family Health Center, where I work, in the South Side of Chicago.  When I first began working there in 2008, we had three established clinic sites, and I was hired to help establish a tiny school-based clinic.  Now we have five clinic sites, serving more patients. America’s Reinvestment and Recovery funds enabled us to move out of the two converted band rooms in the local high school and in 2009 open a street-front clinic with five medical exam rooms and three dental rooms.  Within a year, the East Side Clinic team was serving over 100% of our target number of patients, with the number of patients served limited only by the size of the clinic and small staff.

From awards made possible by the Affordable Care Act, the Chicago Family Health Center has received another $6 million to renovate our outdated and outgrown Pullman Clinic.  Before, patient overflow from the waiting room occasionally spilled onto the sidewalk.  With more rooms, and more space, we can comfortably serve more of the patients who will be entering the primary care system in 2014.

Hooray for ACA funding to build infrastructural capacity in community health centers!

But if you build it, will they come?

Who will staff these better and brighter and newer clinics?

Next up: recruiting additional providers into the primary care workforce, and strengthening inter-professional teams to optimize cost-effective, quality care for communities across America.

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