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With federal funding set to expire, advocates say more Kentuckians rely on community health centers

By Nadia Ramagan
Public News Service

The bulk of federal funding for community health centers expires next month, and health advocates say they’re worried about the impact on Kentucky communities.

Molly Lewis, CEO, Kentucky Primary Care Association, said about one in five Kentuckians accesses health services through a community health center, which doesn’t require insurance or hefty payments. She said centers ensure residents can access medical, dental and behavioral health, but typically go further to cater to the needs of the communities they serve.

NKyTribune file)

“Expanded hours, or for that health center to also be the provider within the schools, taking care of children, and really develop that relationship,” she continued.

Lewis added the demand for centers in the Commonwealth has jumped by 45% over the past several years. Nationwide, health centers have struggled to hire staff to reduce workforce shortages and shore up essential health care services.

Paloma Hernandez, president and CEO at Urban Health Plan and board chair of the National Association of Community Health Centers, said centers continue to face serious workforce challenges, and notes that without proper funding to recruit and retain health-care professionals, she expects staffing levels will further shrink.

“So we have people who need care, we have not enough providers, so we don’t have enough providers to provide the care that we have. And so we’re in this predicament, she explained.”

Community health centers employ around 400,000 and produce more than $85 billion in economic output in the communities where they operate, according to the National Association of Community Health Centers.

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