Tester hopeful budget will cure Montana health center funding woes

U.S. Senators Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker chat at the U.S. Capitol

He credits the community health center and his caseworker with getting him into housing and treatment to get sober.

Their red clothing was meant to show solidarity with the thousands of community health centers across the US facing a financial crisis due to a federal funding cliff.

Last year, CommUnity Health Centers in Travis County served 96,000 patients, with 350,000 visits, Fournier said. The facilities provide primary and preventive care to more than 280,000 Mississippians annually.

"With 17 community health centers in Montana, they are vital to providing health care to thousands of Montanans", said Daines.

The Community Health Center Fund program provides money for programs such as Neighborhood Health that work with low-income residents, covering part of the costs for people who do not have insurance, said Neighborhood Health Chairman Don Hinman. According to an article by the Washington Post, failure to do so could force 2,800 centers to close, as the funding makes up 70 percent of their budgets.

Tester said since 2015 he has gotten grants such as $1.6 million for Glacier Community Health Center in Cut Bank; $1.5 million Cascade County Community Health Center in Great Falls; $919,183 for Custer Community Health Center in Miles City; $716,936 Marias Health Service Inc.in Shelby and $625,000 for PureView Health Center in Helena.

In a telephone call to reporters that included three officials with three health centers, the Montana Democrat said it would be part of $7 billion in funding for health centers nationwide.

The CHCF expired on September 30, 2017, jeopardizing access to care for patients and making it hard for community health centers to adequately plan for everything from staffing needs to securing loans for capital projects.

"I really appreciate what these people (at Neighborhood Health) did for me", Torres said Tuesday during a news conference at the community health center.

Senate leaders announced a bipartisan budget deal on Wednesday that would reauthorize the Community Health Center Fund and the National Health Service Corps for two more years — a move seen as critical for maintaining primary health-care services for over 100,000 Montanans. It would also avoid a partial government shutdown on February 8 by funding federal government operations until March 23.

While prioritizing funding for Community Health Centers has been subject to debate within Congress, Geeslin said he is hopeful lawmakers will keep the funding included in a final budget resolution between the House and the Senate. Cochran and Wicker have promoted this policy in legislation they've authored, including the CONNECT for Health Act.

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