Health centers providing essential service

Letter to the Editor by Kate Duggan | August 10, 2016

National Health Center Week is a national campaign that runs August 7-13th with the goal of raising awareness about the mission and accomplishments of America’s health centers over the course of more than five decades.

One of the bright spots in America’s healthcare system, health centers started over 50 years ago as a pilot project during President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty. Today, they have compiled a significant record of success that includes:

  • Producing $24 billion in annual health system savings
  • Reducing unnecessary hospitalizations and unnecessary emergency room visits
  • Treating patients for a fraction of the average cost of one emergency room visit
  • Maintaining patient satisfaction levels of nearly 100 percent
  • Generating $26.5 billion in economic activity and over 230,000 jobs
  • Reducing infant mortality rates

Patients of community health centers experience a combination of quality care, affordability, and accessibility that is unique in our country’s health care system. From a sliding scale payment system to the ability to get in to see a provider promptly, health centers ensure that all members of their community have meaningful access to primary care. In addition to primary care services, health centers provide “wraparound” services, such as transportation, translation, care coordination and more, to further enhance patients’ access to care.

Health centers not only prevent illness and foster wellness in the most challenging populations, they 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. Historically, health centers have been a vital source of health care for both the insured and uninsured.  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.

Today in Montana, 17 not for profit, community health centers across the state serve approximately 100,000 patients.  Sapphire Community Health is Ravalli County’s local community health center that takes a tailored approach to meet the unique needs of the people in our community. Our focus is on patient involvement in service, improved access to care, reduction in health disparities and effective management of chronic illness. To find out more, visit us online at

Kate Duggan, Community Outreach Coordinator
Sapphire Community Health, Inc.