Standing up for community health

by Sidney Roundup, Jon Tester

Community health centers, including Sidney Health Center here in Sidney, provide access to quality care to one in 10 Montanans. Community health centers are vital across rural America. That’s why, after Congress let them sit in limbo for more than 130 days, I rattled some cages back in Washington to finally secure much-needed funding and certainty for them.

Last year, I held a series of listening sessions across our state. I heard time and again how much folks rely on these clinics, and appreciate the quality care they provide.

Congress’ four-month failure to pass a long-term budget, forced Montana’s 40 community health facilities to consider scaling back services or closing altogether.

After many rounds of negotiations, I pushed the Senate to reach a bipartisan agreement to increase funding for Montana’s community health centers for the next two years.

This bipartisan agreement will keep health care accessible for 100,000 Montanans and will ensure that folks in Richland County don’t have to travel hundreds of miles to take their kids to a checkup or get patched up after an injury.

That’s why I fought to get this fixed. I stood with Montana’s health leaders on the Capitol steps, demanded action on the Senate floor, and even voted against short-term government funding budgets until folks would listen.

I told Washington to stop playing politics with your health care. I was the only member of Montana’s congressional delegation to support the renewal and increase to community health center funding.

I am incredibly pleased that we prevented these clinics from closing. But we have more work to do, because Montana’s communities deserve more than two years of certainty.

I’ve lived my whole life on the land my grandparents homesteaded in Big Sandy. I’ve worked that farm every planting season like my parents did and their parents before them.

Every farmer knows that accidents happen. Between losing my three fingers in a meat grinder to various bumps, cuts and bruises, I know how important rural health facilities are to our rural and frontier communities.

I will do everything I can in Congress to ensure you and your family never have to question whether Sidney Health Center will be there when you need it.

Jon Tester is a third generation farmer from Big Sandy and the senior Senator from Montana.