The Plainfield Community Health Center has become the sixth in Vermont to be designated a federally qualified health center. The center was awarded $566,667 in the first of what will be annual grants for its program of preventative and primary health care services. "Community health centers are providing high-quality health care, low-cost prescription drugs, dental care, and mental health counseling in a very cost-effective way," Senator Bernie Sanders said. Read more...
The Plainfield Health Center director, Dr. John Matthew said, "Being designated an FQHC and receiving the funding will strengthen our health care programs for all of our current patients and for new patients from our service area. It will allow us to offer social services, outreach, screening, education and other programs that we could not provide before. The designation also helps underwrite our sliding fee scale for uninsured, low-income individuals."
The Health Center in Washington County was among 86 to be awarded a total of $45 million in nationwide grants under the program established by Congress in the U.S. Health and Human Services Department.
In Vermont, the addition of the Plainfield center brings to six the number of federally-funded health center networks. Altogether, the centers care for patients in eight counties, serving more than 10 percent of the state population. In the long term, Sanders hopes to establish health centers throughout Vermont.
The funding that The Health Center in Plainfield will receive is a direct result of an increase Sanders helped secure in appropriations for this year. Part of a resolution Congress passed to fund all government agencies in 2007, community health centers received an increase of $207 million.
In addition, as a member of the Senate Budget Committee Sanders added $575 million more than President Bush sought for health centers in Vermont and across the country for next year. The extra funds were authorized in a budget resolution Congress approved on May 17. If Congress appropriates all of the funds that were budgeted, new health centers could be created to serve 4 million more Americans. In addition, the funding would provide the first increase in grants in two years for existing health centers that have been treating an increasing number of uninsured patients.
Separate legislation introduced by Sanders on March 20 would strengthen support for 1,200 existing community health centers that serve more than 15 million patients regardless of their ability to pay, and devote additional resources to another 800 centers already approved on paper but unfunded because of budget shortfalls.
In addition, Sanders' bill would double the funding for the National Health Service Corps in order to train and send more primary care doctors and dentists into rural and inner-city communities where 35 million Americans live without full access to basic medical services.