DENVER― The White House announced today the distribution of $10 billion in funding from the American Rescue Plan Act to expand access to the COVID-19 vaccines and to build vaccine confidence in the hardest-hit and highest-risk communities. Colorado Community Health Centers are slated to receive a portion of the $6 billion dollars allocated for Community Health Centers (CHCs) across the nation. Colorado CHCs will receive about $131 million to be used over two years to expand access to vaccines in underserved communities.
Colorado CHCs have already been hard at work distributing vaccines; contacting patients and community members; scheduling people for vaccination drive-in and drive-through events; taking the vaccine to communities and workers who cannot come to the Health Centers; as well as partnering with local organizations, public health departments, churches, and others to make the COVID-19 vaccinations available and accessible.
CHCs were targeted for this funding because of the important role they play in ensuring vaccine equity.
CHCs are by law and by design located in areas and communities that would otherwise be underserved or not served at all by the health care system. CHCs were created to bridge that gap and have been serving in and hiring from their communities for more than five decades. More than half of the members of their boards of directors are patients, CHCs use a sliding fee scale to make care affordable, and CHCs care for patients with no insurance, inadequate insurance, or fully insured, whether that is public or private health coverage. About 66% of CHC patients in 2019 were an ethnic or racial minority.
“We are deeply grateful to President Biden, Vice President Harris, and members of the US Congress for putting such a high priority on reaching everyone with access to the COVID-19 vaccine,” said Polly Anderson, Vice President of Strategy and Financing of the Colorado Community Health Network. “This support will help our CHCs be able to plan further ahead, organize more community access to vaccines, and address needed supplies and staffing to make vaccine efforts go as smoothly as possible.”
This is critically needed funding because CHCs have been operating in a deficit since the pandemic began due both to increased expenses and reduced revenues. To ensure CHC patients would not lose access during the pandemic, CHCs made costly technology investments to ensure they could provide telehealth appointments and invested in new HVAC and infection control systems and personal protective equipment to ensure safe in-person appointments. Further investments were made to offer COVID testing, and now vaccine drives. Half of Colorado CHCs made furloughs and lay-offs during the pandemic.
“This one-time funding will expand the reach of Colorado’s vaccination efforts into communities of need, fill Health Center budget holes estimated at more than $20 million and help ensure the long-term viability of Colorado’s largest primary care safety net,” explained Ms. Anderson.
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Go here for the fact sheet from the White House announcing the funding distribution.
The Colorado Community Health Network (CCHN) is the unified voice for Colorado’s 20 Community Health Centers (CHCs) and their patients. CHCs provide a health care home to more than 852,000 of their community members – one in seven people in Colorado – from 62 of the state’s 64 counties. Without CHCs, hundreds of thousands of Colorado’s low-income families and individuals would have no regular source of health care. CCHN’s mission is to increase access to high quality health care for people in need in Colorado. For more information about CCHN, please visit www.cchn.org.
To learn more about careers at Community Health Centers, please visit www.missiondrivencareers.org.