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New HRSA Report Illustrates Success of Health Centers

June 30, 2008

From the HRSA Newsroom.

A new report released today by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) describes how HRSA-funded health centers improve the lives of the more than 16 million people they treat each year.
Using personal stories, examples and background statistics, Health Centers: America’s Primary Care Safety Net Reflections on Success, 2002-2007, details the broad reach of HRSA-funded health centers across the country – and offers a glimpse into the work of agency grantees to overcome language and cultural barriers that often have thwarted efforts to serve poor and minority patients living on the margins of mainstream society.

Health centers provide the only available preventive care and treatment for many disadvantaged people across the country, who otherwise would seek care in overcrowded emergency rooms or go untreated.

An ambitious expansion initiative launched by President Bush in 2001 dramatically increased the health center network, reinforcing its importance as a model for delivering comprehensive primary health care to some of the most vulnerable and geographically isolated people in the United States.

“The President’s expansion is the largest we’ve undertaken in the 40-year history of the health center program,” said HRSA Administrator Elizabeth Duke. “All the more remarkable is how far we’ve extended our reach in such a short period of time. Many patients – and remember that more than a third of them are children – are now regularly seeing a doctor, a dentist, or a mental health counselor for perhaps the first time in their lives.”

HRSA supports more than 1,000 health centers, which themselves operate six times as many service delivery sites. They are in every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Pacific Basin. Health center funds also support programs that serve migrant health, health care for the homeless, and primary health care for residents of public housing.

The range of services offered at health centers has increased along with the number of patients served.  In 2007, almost 2.8 million patients received dental services, nearly double the 1.4 million dental patients served in 2001. Gains were also striking among patients who received mental health services.  In 2007, 613,000 patients came to health centers for mental health care and/or substance abuse services, triple the number who received such care in 2001.

In the past six years, HRSA -supported health center grantees have added 3,200 physicians – and more than 2,000 nurse practitioners, physician assistants and certified nurse-midwives – for a total full-time staff of nearly 13,000 frontline primary health professionals. The centers have generated an estimated $12.6 billion in local economic activity and, when both direct and indirect effects are considered, 143,000 jobs.

To help consumers find the health center closest to them, HRSA today also unveiled a new “Find a Health Center ” tool, http://findahealthcenter.hrsa.gov/.

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