During NATIONAL HEALTH CENTER WEEK, we salute the community-focused work of health centers to ensure the health and well-being of more than one million state residents - that's one in every six - through some 300 delivery sites. Nationally, health centers serve 28 million patients through 11,000 locations.
Massachusetts launched the nation's first health center in 1965 with a fundamental mission: To bring primary and preventive health care to people in need. While health centers have grown in scope and size since those early days, what hasn't changed 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. Based on federal health center data, since 2010, the number of health center patients seeking mental health services at a Massachusetts health center has increased by 99 percent. Even more staggering, the number of patients seeking treatment for substance use disorders has grown by 157 percent. In response to these growing needs in their communities, the state’s health centers have increased their mental health personnel by 118 percent and staff that treat addiction by more than 300 percent over the same time period.
This model of care has a proven record. As a result of keeping patients engaged in primary care and less reliant on expensive emergency, hospital and specialty care, health centers save $1,263 per patient per year. In Massachusetts, those savings amount to $2 billion annually.
Unless Congress acts now, a large portion of health center funding expires in September. Several bipartisan bills have been introduced in Congress that will provide long-term and stable funding for health centers, as well as for programs that help build the primary care workforce we need for the future.
During National Health Center Week – and beyond – 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 model solution for our nation's health. To find a health center near you, click HERE.