Community health centers provide primary, preventive and dental care, as well as mental health, substance abuse, eye care and other community-based services to anyone in need regardless of their insurance status or ability to pay. In Massachusetts, 49 community health center organizations provide high quality health care to some 889,000 state residents through more than 285 sites statewide. That’s one out of every eight people in the state.
In 1965, the nation’s first community health center opened its doors in Boston, Massachusetts. Until that time, health services for low and moderate-income people in inner city areas and isolated rural communities were nowhere to be found. In response, community members organized around the need to bring primary care to their neighborhoods. Insisting that they have a voice in how and what care should be delivered to the community, boards of directors that included a majority of health center consumers were incorporated into the model. Today, health center patients continue to drive the mission and work of community health centers.
In addition to providing comprehensive health services to underserved people, health centers are at the leading edge of addressing some of the most vexing problems of our health care system, including facilitating access to health insurance coverage for low-income residents and eliminating health disparities between racial and ethnic populations. Currently, 63% of Massachusetts health center patients belong to an ethnic or racial minority group.
Community health centers are receiving increasing attention as a solution for reducing health costs and ensuring health care quality in Massachusetts and across the nation. Community health centers excel at providing preventive care and chronic disease management in lower cost community settings. These savings are passed on to the state’s Medicaid program and other insurers. Massachusetts health centers contributed $929 million directly into the state’s economy, generated $650 million in direct household income and supported more than 10,000 jobs.[/x_text]