The Department of Health and Human Services announced that it has awarded $125 million to nearly 1,400 community health centers (CHCs) across the country for quality improvement initiatives.
The grants were unveiled at one such facility in the District of Columbia called Mary’s Center, which will receive $100,000 through the grant round to enhance its IT systems.
HHS Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan said CHCs are at the forefront of the agency’s central goals, such as advancing value-based care, easing high costs and confronting the opioid epidemic.
He said he has devoted a significant amount of time visiting such facilities in his work with HHS, including his current stint and prior roles in the Bush administration. It’s akin to baseball fans who want to visit as many ballparks as they can across the country, Hargan said.
“I’m a health center fan,” he joked.
CHCs reach patients in underserved regions, and many offer a diverse set of services, including medical, behavioral health and dental care. Federal programs that fund these centers were in limbo for months, before Congress reached a bipartisan budget deal that extended that funding for two more years.
The grants issued by HHS coincide with National Health Center Week and will allow for these facilities to make improvements in several areas: increasing access to comprehensive services, improving quality, making comprehensive care more cost-effective, addressing disparities, enhancing IT systems and creating a more patient-centered experience.
The grant payouts also coincided with the release of new data from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) on how such centers are providing primary care to patients. More than 27 million people visited a CHC last year to receive primary care, according to HRSA. That includes one in five people living in rural areas and one in three people living in poverty. In addition, CHCs provided primary care to one in nine children under age 17 and more than 355,000 veterans.
“HRSA-funded centers are able to treat the whole person,” HRSA Administrator George Sigounas, Ph.D., said at the event.