During NATIONAL HEALTH CENTER WEEK, we salute the more than 10,000 health center employees who are true heroes in the work to ensure the health and well-being of more than one million state residents - that's one in every six - through 300 delivery sites statewide.
Massachusetts launched the nation's first health center in 1965 with a fundamental mission: To bring primary health care to people in need. Health centers have grown in scope and size since those early days and today serve more than one million people in Massachusetts - that's one in every six. What hasn’t changed, however, is their groundbreaking approach to care delivery and the value they yield within our health system.
Health centers continue to lead the way in primary care by offering a set of comprehensive services – medical, dental, vision, pharmacy, behavioral health, and addiction care – all in one place and to anyone in need. Looking beyond a patient’s medical chart, health centers strive to better understand and address the factors that cause poor health in the first place, including poverty, homelessness, mental illness, substance use, lack of access to nutritious food and unemployment.
They also are at the leading edge of addressing some of our nation’s most pressing health care issues, including the epidemic of opioid addiction and overdose. Massachusetts health centers have increased the number of physicians, nurses and other staff who provide substance use disorder services by a staggering 143 percent over the last five years. In 2017, Massachusetts health centers served 8,387 residents struggling with alcohol or opioid dependence.
The state's health centers also contribute to the economic health of communities, supporting more than 18,000 jobs and contributing nearly $2.7 billion in statewide economic output every year. What’s more, by keeping high-need patients engaged in primary care and less reliant on expensive emergency and hospital care, the state’s health centers help generate more than $2 billion in annual healthcare savings for Massachusetts.
While they were originally established to serve uninsured and lower-income individuals and families, community health centers increasingly have become providers of choice for residents from all walks of life. Data continue to show that the quality of care offered at health centers is as good as – and often better – than care provided in other settings.
State legislative leaders recently proposed $15 million in new funding for health centers as part of a broader health care bill on Beacon Hill. These investments are necessary to ensure that health centers are positioned to meet the growing demand for their services such as addiction treatment, and to upgrade technology and other infrastructure in order to remain the lowest-cost and most efficient providers in our health system. The next legislative session provides an opportunity for leaders to show their recognition that such investments in health centers are not only imperative – but wise.
During National Health Center Week we invite you to visit us to learn more about the range of services and programs we offer. Talk with our clinicians and staff and find out why health centers are a good prescription for our nation's health.
For a list of NHCW events, please click HERE.