Written by Madelaine Herder, Director of Development
NorthLakes Community Clinic Advocacy Committee
NorthLakes Community Clinic
Since the election, many of us at NorthLakes Community Clinic were being asked nearly the same three questions; what does this mean for Community Health Centers (CHCs)? What does this mean for our patients? What should we be doing?
It’s far too early to know what Congress and the Administration have in mind for CHCs, or for the patients we currently serve and those that still lack access to care.
NorthLakes Community Clinic is one of the 1300 CHCs nationwide that have served for decades as an example of true bipartisanship, recognized equally by both Republican and Democratic lawmakers as an innovative and local solution that brings health and wellness to underserved communities, stimulates local economies by bringing good jobs, identifies and addresses emerging public health threats such as the nationwide opioid addiction problem, and generates billions of dollars in savings to the health care system each year. CHCs save the health care system $24 billion annually in reduced emergency, hospital, and specialty care costs.
Throughout the years, NorthLakes has been working with our national and state health care advocacy organizations to ensure that CHCs and our patients were understood and recognized as a part of any effort toward systemic change and new health care programming. We will continue with our advocacy work as we welcome the opportunity to work with a new group of policymakers and a new Administration. There is much to be hopeful for!
Without question there are now many “red flags” that should have all of us on high advocacy alert – many uncertainties about the future structure and support for programs such as Medicaid and Medicare, and likely challenges or changes to the Affordable Care Act. (We believe it could be generally agreed, the ACA could definitely be improved upon!) However, no matter the challenges, we believe in and have witnessed Community Health Centers’ ability to be successful.
So, to the questions. What does this mean for CHCs and our patients? We will continue to bring high-quality, affordable primary and preventive care to our neighbors. Our patients will have access to services in all of our current locations and beyond. We are currently expanding our Ashland, Iron River (and hopefully soon, Hayward) sites to better serve our patients and communities. Although in the worst case scenario we may lose some federal funding, NorthLakes only receives a small portion of our revenues from federal sources. We receive the largest portion of our operational funding from billing insurance for care provided. And, as a non-profit (501(c)3) organization, we are actively friend- and fund-raising.
But the third question – what should YOU be doing? First, we thank our friends and neighbors for asking. We need voices to educate and inform our state and national government officials about the value CHCs bring to their communities. We encourage you to become a health care advocate by going to our website at www.northlakesclinic.org and clicking on the “get involved” tab. When there is an issue that impacts CHCs, our national advocacy organization will send you information and help you with specific ways that you can take action. We need as many people as possible carrying the health center message to elected officials.
While many answers are yet to come, there are some that are clear – that NorthLakes Community Clinic will continue to be driven by our mandate to improve the health and wellbeing of our communities, and that the path to broader understanding of our value is making our voices heard through advocacy.
NorthLakes Community Clinic (NLCC) provides medical, dental, mental health counseling, substance use disorder counseling, recovery services, chiropractic, speech therapy, occupational therapy, and prescriptions for patients. Community Health Centers provide care to everyone, including those with commercial insurance, those with government insurance (Medicaid and Medicare) and those without insurance. A sliding fee discount on services may apply for qualifying patients. NLCC has 11 clinic locations in Ashland, Balsam Lake, Hayward, Iron River, Minong, Turtle Lake, and Washburn. Clinics are open Monday through Friday. Call 888-834-4551 to make an appointment. NorthLakes Community Clinic is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.