In anticipation of National Health Center Week (August 4-10, 2019) we thought we’d share this editorial written by NorthLakes Community Clinic CEO Reba Rice.
Each year, National Health Center Week provides an opportunity to highlight the work Community Health Centers are doing to move beyond the political battle over health care and provide preventative and primary care services to all.
Currently, health centers serve 28 million people or 1 in 12 Americans. Community Health Centers are locally run and provide care to people who disproportionately suffer from chronic disease and lack access to affordable, quality care. While our approach is community-based and local, collectively we generate a nationwide ripple effect. Nationally, we lower health care costs (to the tune of $24 billion a year), reduce chronic diseases, and stimulate local economies.
At NorthLakes Community Clinic, we’re committed to finding quality, innovative and cost effective ways to actively remove barriers to care. Our end goal is to create healthy engaged communities where everyone thrives. While this vision is ambitious, it is one we work towards daily by finding ways to help people get access to the care they need and deserve—either in our clinics or through community partners and collaborations.
This year, we’re proud to say we have clinics in 13 communities throughout northern Wisconsin. We employ more than 370 people with an annual payroll of $26 million. That’s a lot of good jobs in small communities. Also, it results in our creating access for a lot of individuals who might not otherwise have access—whether it is financial, geographic, provider shortages or another barrier that once prevented them from seeking care.
So far this year, more than 17,000 individuals have received services in our clinics. In addition to direct patient services, many of these individuals receive additional services coordinated through our health support services. These supports range widely based on the patient need: it isn’t unusual for our team to assist patients overcome barriers around housing, insurance, child care, transportation, and care coordination all in one day.
Our commitment to community extends well beyond our walls. During the 2018-2019 school-year, we served 15,386 children in our Seal-A-Smile program, making it the largest in the state both by geography and patients. In the meantime, we continue to grow our School Based Behavioral Health program to ensure more students have access to this critical service right at their school. We’re currently in 16 school districts and saw over 275 kids in the past school year.
I share these numbers because they show our commitment to serving northern Wisconsin both through providing great health care and great jobs. We recognize that improving the overall health of our communities extends beyond medical charts. We’re committed to exploring ways to address many of the factors that may cause poor health, such as poverty, homelessness, substance use, mental illness, poor nutrition, and unemployment. We collaborate and partner with hospitals, local and state governments, social, health and business organizations to improve health for people who are vulnerable.
Community Health Centers are proven models of health care. As part of National Health Center Week 2019 (August 4-10th), we invite you to take a moment to learn more about NorthLakes Community Clinic and why local health centers are a great prescription for good public health; and ask you to encourage our legislators to continue their bi-partisan support of Community Health Centers.
Reba Rice, CEO
NorthLakes Community Clinic