National Health Center Week is Aug. 12-18. Learn more about how America’s Health Centers are the key to healthier communities.

Celebrate our nation’s bright spots in healthcare

By Karla Sluis, spokesperson for Axis Health System in Southwest Colorado

On the Fourth of July weekend, Durango residents and visitors happily strolled around Buckley Park and watched the parade on Main Avenue. The holiday was a chance to celebrate two things Americans hold dear: freedom and choice.

Although the healthcare system in our country is flawed, there is still freedom and choice in healthcare options. Not everyone knows that Community Health Centers have a lot to offer as one of the choices. CHCs are nonprofit, community-directed clinics that serve the whole community, including low-income and medically underserved people. CHCs receive this designation from the Health Resources and Services Administration through a competitive federal granting process. The centers improve access to care for millions of Americans, regardless of their insurance status or ability to pay. Health center successes include healthier people, lower healthcare costs, more jobs, reduced hospital visits and fewer dollars spent on “sick care.”

In Southwest Colorado, the local CHCs are part of the nonprofit Axis Health System. Their two innovative centers offer whole person care ­– combining physical health and behavioral health services in a one-stop shop. La Plata Integrated Healthcare opened in 2013, and Cortez Integrated Healthcare opened in 2015. These health centers are modern, tech-savvy, beautifully designed facilities that deliver quality, cost effective, accessible care to anyone who needs it. That’s something to celebrate.

National Health Center Week is Aug. 12-18 with the goal of raising awareness about the mission and accomplishments of America’s CHCs over the course of more than five decades. One of the bright spots in the U.S. healthcare system, CHCs started over 50 years ago as a pilot project during President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty. Health centers serve over 24 million Americans at more than 9,000 delivery sites in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and U.S. territories. One in every 15 people living in the United States depends on their services.

Today, CHCs have compiled a significant record of success that includes:

  • Producing $24 billion in annual health system savings
  • Reducing unnecessary hospitalizations and unnecessary visits to the emergency room
  • Treating patients for a fraction of the average cost of one emergency room visit
  • Maintaining patient satisfaction levels averaging higher than 90 percent
  • Generating $26.5 billion in economic activity and over 230,000 jobs
  • Reducing infant mortality rates

CHCs not only prevent illness and foster wellness for everyone regardless of socioeconomic status, they also produce innovative solutions to the most pressing healthcare issues in their communities. They reach beyond the walls of conventional medicine to address the factors that may cause sickness, such as lack of nutrition, mental illness, homelessness and addiction. Because of their long record of success in innovation, managing healthcare costs, and reducing chronic disease, leaders in Congress have declared health centers a model of care that offers a “bipartisan solution to the primary care access problems” facing our nation.

If health centers can inspire teamwork across party lines in this tense election year, they are truly a cause for celebration.

View a presentation for more information on Axis Health System’s Community Health Centers, click here.