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Community-based health centers are vital

National Health Center Week is Aug. 7-13. As we do every August, Rogue Community Health uses this time to promote the important work that community health centers across the country are doing: providing preventive and primary care services to nearly 29 million people.

Community health centers provide services to people who disproportionately suffer from chronic disease and lack access to affordable, quality care. While the approach is community-based and local, collectively, community health centers are the backbone of the nation’s primary care system. Community health centers lower national health care costs on the order of $24 billion a year, reduce rates of chronic diseases, and stimulate local economies.

At Rogue Community Health we provide medical services regardless of insurance or income status virtually and at four locations across the Rogue Valley in addition to dental, pediatrics and behavior health centers. For those who face hardships, we provide support in applying for insurance through the Oregon Health Plan or appropriate alternatives as well as connect individuals with relevant resources such as food and benefits assistance, addiction and recovery services, and transitional housing for those impacted by wildfires.

Community health centers do not just address medical issues, they are innovators who look beyond a patient’s chart to address the factors that may cause poor health, such as poverty, homelessness, substance use, mental illness, lack of nutrition, and unemployment. They are a critical piece of the health care system and collaborate with hospitals, local and state governments, and social and health organizations to improve health outcomes for people who are medically vulnerable.

As COVID-19 took its toll, like many health centers, Rogue Community Health adapted its services to increase telehealth and virtual visit options. We also responded with extensive outreach to ensure the community stayed informed and able to access care with minimal disruption. While the pandemic has been difficult to navigate, it forced us to examine how we outreach and serve our community and laid the foundation for a more flexible and accessible approach that will continue to benefit our members.

To protect the services community health centers provide, it is important to continue to engage state and federal representatives to ensure stable funding to keep our doors open and close the growing access gap for medically vulnerable communities. Congress must act for CHCs to continue to serve as health care homes.

Show your support during National Health Center Week. We are here for you whenever you need us.

Alison Waldron is marketing coordinator for Rogue Community Health.