Marquise Smith didn’t know it, but he was in bad shape. “I don’t go to doctors,” he said. “I felt really bad and didn’t have a doctor, so I visited the community health center near my home.” The visit to a community health center changed his life.

Gov. Phil Bryant declared the first week in August as Mississippi Community Health Center Week. Mississippi’s 21 community health centers operate more than 200 access points to primary health care, serving more than 300,000 Mississippians. These community health centers operate in schools, as freestanding clinics in the community, and mobile units in 77 of Mississippi’s 82 counties.

Community health centers are primarily funded by a federal program established 50 years ago to address the health care needs of the underserved in rural and urban communities. Health center funding continues to be a non-partisan issue because of the value they bring to patients, local communities, and states’ economies.

Mississippi community health centers saved the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid more than $10M from 2014 to 2017 in health care costs by keeping Mississippi patients well and their chronic disease managed via the Medicare Shared Savings Program. Our legislators understand the value of community health centers as employers and purchasers in communities and continue to fund the Mississippi Qualified Health Center program. In 2018, a $32.88 per patient return on investment was realized for every state tax dollar spent.

Community health centers provide a vital service keeping community members well, providing education about health and wellness, and implementing interventions to curb the onset of diseases.

That is why securing the long-term federal funding for community health centers to keep them opened and staffed is so important, especially in rural states like Mississippi. We are grateful for Sens. Roger Wicker and Cindy Hyde-Smith, as well as Rep. Bennie Thompson, who have co-sponsored federal legislation for long-term funding of community health centers that will soon be voted on by Congress this September.

Community Health Centers are for everyone. To find one near you, visit chcams.org.

Janice Sherman

CEO, Community Health Center

Association of Mississippi

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