Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Florida's Community Health Centers Thankful for Federal Funding

TALLAHASSEE, FL – In a rare show of bipartisanship, Republican and Democratic Senate leaders announced a two-year budget deal that would increase federal spending for defense as well as key domestic priorities, including many health programs.

The deal appears to offer most of what Democrats have been asking for in recent months, including two years of renewed funding for community health centers. The bill passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump provides $3.8 billion for community health centers for fiscal year 2018 and $4 billion for fiscal year 2019 through the Community Health Center Fund.

Speaking on The Rotunda podcast, Andrew Behrman, president and CEO of the Florida Association of Community Health Centers, said the funding is essential to keeping communities healthy.

"Community Health Centers provide primary care, they provide behavioral health, they provide dental services," Behrman said. "All of them are obviously expensive, so those dollars are used to assist an increasing those services also."

Community health center officials say they're satisfied with the funding extension for now, but they'd like to see a more long-term fix.

Behrman said health centers are starting to shift their approach to how they market themselves, hoping to prevent being as vulnerable to funding cuts.

"We are trying to get the word out and we've spent quite a few years working with legislature both at the state level and certainly at the national level, but more so at the county level," he said. "These are community-based organizations, and they should be an integral part of the communities' health systems, and they are. "

Federally Qualified Health Centers provide primary care services to medically underserved areas on a sliding fee scale, and no one is turned away. Behrman said roughly 1.4 million Floridians were seen last year at 500 locations in the state.

This piece was reprinted by the Columbia County Observer with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.

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