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.
Community health centers in Massachusetts and across the country have played an essential role in meeting the needs of our most vulnerable citizens throughout the pandemic. From providing PPE, COVID-19 education, and contact tracing expertise, to standing up large-scale testing and vaccination sites, health center staff have worked non-stop to save lives in communities most at risk for hospitalization and death from the virus. Unlike other primary care providers, health centers have remained open over the course of the pandemic, providing needed primary, behavioral health and dental care through both virtual visits and safe on-site care.
During calendar year 2020, at the height of the pandemic, Massachusetts Federally Qualified Health Centers provided 3.5 million patient visits, 1.5 million of which were through telehealth. Of those visits, 1.4 million were for medical care, 291,000 for dental procedures and 187,000 for behavioral health services. Remarkably, in both 2020 and 2021, health centers achieved some of the highest childhood immunization rates of the last 6 years and so far, have administered more than a half-million vaccine doses.
“Despite finding ourselves in the second year of a pandemic that has deeply and disparately affected our patients, Massachusetts health centers have much to take pride in during this year’s Health Center Week,” said Michael Curry, president and CEO of the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers. “They are not only increasing COVID-19 vaccination rates in hard-hit communities, they are expanding and strengthening the services and supports they offer them to ensure a more equitable recovery in historically under-resourced areas of the Commonwealth.”
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.
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.