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Our country has always struggled to live up to its founding freedoms. The decision by the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade will reduce womenís and birthing peopleís agency over their own bodies and lives. It is a place we have been before. Our commitment to the fundamental idea that health care is a basic right will not be swayed.

National Health Center Week 2022

During NATIONAL HEALTH CENTER WEEK, we salute the community-focused work of Massachusetts health centers to ensure the health and well-being of more than one million patients ó thatís one in every seven state residents. Nationally, health centers serve 29 million patients through more than 11,000 locations.

The history of community health centers is rooted in the racial and social justice movements of the 1960s. Massachusetts led the way, launching the nationís first health center in 1965 with the mission of eliminating barriers to primary and preventive health care for low-income patients and communities of color. While health centers have grown in number and scope since those early days, what hasnít changed is their visionary approach to care delivery and the value they yield within our health system.

Health centers created a model of primary care that offers comprehensive services Ė medical, dental, vision, pharmacy, behavioral health, and addiction care Ė all in one place and to anyone in need. Looking beyond a patientís 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.

The success of the health center model is well documented. As a result of keeping patients engaged in primary care and less reliant on expensive emergency, hospital, and specialty care, health centers reduce rates of chronic diseases like diabetes and asthma, helping to lower the nationís healthcare costs by $24 billion. In Massachusetts, health centers produce $3 billion in economic stimulus, employ nearly 19,000 residents, and generate $1.7 billion in savings for the stateís overall health system.

Health centers also are at the leading edge of addressing some of our nation's most pressing health care issues, including the continuing opioid epidemic and the current COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout the pandemic, health centers have continued to provide critically needed primary healthcare services while also standing up large-scale community-wide testing and vaccination clinics, participating in the state's contact tracing initiative, and distributing hundreds of thousands of masks and home testing kits to community residents. Since January 2021, Massachusetts health centers have administered 1.1 million COVID-19 vaccines and nearly one million PCR tests. Sixty-seven percent of those vaccines and 65% of those tests were administered to people of color.

Massachusetts health centers are now turning their attention to the far-reaching effects of COVID-19 on patients, many of whom have delayed seeking care for chronic and emerging health conditions. Support from federal and state policymakers remains critical as we work to increase our capacity to provide care for complex illnesses, particularly behavioral health and substance use disorders. Demand for these services has surged due in large part to the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on the communities we serve.

Support from Congress in the form of emergency and long-term funding is critical to the ability of community health centers to continue this vital care.

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 nationís health.

To find a health center near you, click here.

To locate a National Health Center Week event happening in your area, click here.