Community health official responds to Senator’s letter of support for funding

by The Western News, John Blodgett

Sen. Jon Tester urged congressional leaders to address the pressing funding needs of community health centers in a letter dated Jan. 31, his office announced that day.

Maria A. Clemons, executive Director of the Northwest Community Health Center in Libby, said via email that Tester “has been a leader and an advocate for community health centers since he was in the Montana legislature.”

“Health centers across the nation serve some of the most under-served communities and vulnerable populations, and are a vital part of the primary care delivery system,” she wrote. “We know that we have broad support from our entire congressional delegation and the time has come for them to take action.”

“Congress has failed in its most basic duty to provide budgetary certainty to the American people,” Tester wrote in the letter, addressed to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Charles Schumer. “This inexcusable failure is hurting the hospitals and clinics that keep Montana’s rural and medically under-served communities healthy.”

Clemons said the CHC was given notice that starting March 1 it would be receiving month-to-month funding.

“If appropriations are not handled quickly I’m assuming there will be an across the board cut to all health centers across the nation,” she wrote. “This could dramatically impact patient services, (and) although we have internally made contingency plans it is hard to determine what exactly these will look like until the Health Resources and Services Administration is able to provide a solid answer on the level of continued funding.”

“We are hopeful that our champions will get this done before funding runs out on March 31,” she wrote.