BURLINGTON, Vt., June 18 - U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today spoke at a ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the opening of a new $11 million home for the Community Health Center of Burlington.
"As chairman of the subcommittee on primary health care, I am proud that I have helped lead the fight to more than double funding for community health centers to address the primary health crisis in Vermont and America," Sanders said.
The new facility doubles the center's size and will allow it to serve more patients throughout Chittenden County. The Burlington center offers primary health care, dental care, mental health counseling and low-cost prescription drugs to some 13,000 residents of Chittenden County. The expansion will help the center care for 3,500 additional patients, a 25 percent increase, from throughout the community.
The Burlington project was funded from $2 billion allotted in the 2009 economic stimulus bill for community health centers. Another $10 million in federal stimulus funding went to other centers in Vermont to hire more staff and renovate facilities around the state.
The expansion in Burlington is the latest example of the significant progress that has been made in improving access to affordable primary health care in Vermont. In the past decade, Vermont has gone from two Federally Qualified Health Centers to eight, including 47 delivery sites where more than 120,000 Vermonters get their primary care. About one in five Vermonters get their primary care from a community health center.
A Sanders provision in the Affordable Care Act authorized $11 billion to double the number of health centers in this country. As the number of sites increase, the number of Americans who have access to affordable care will double from 20 million to 40 million Americans.
Open to everyone, the centers care for patients covered by Medicaid, Medicare and private insurance, as well as those who have no insurance. Payments are on a sliding scale, so people with low or moderate incomes can afford the services.
In addition to Burlington, the other health centers in Vermont include:
o Community Health Centers of The Rutland Region based in Bomosen;
o Little Rivers Health Care based in Bradford;
o Community Health Services of the Lamoille Valley based in Morrisville;
o The Health Center of Plainfield;
o Northern Tier Community Health based in Richford;
o Northern Counties Health Care in St. Johnsbury, and
o Springfield Medical Care Systems based in Springfield.