Doug Jones calls on Senate Leadership to fund community health centers

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Alabama-Democrat, U.S. Senator Doug Jones signed a bipartisan letter on Monday calling on U.S. Senate leadership to quickly reauthorize funds critical to community health centers as part of a short-term spending bill expected to pass this week.

Funding for the Community Health Center Fund (CHCF) expired on September 30, 2017. Without an extension, community health centers stand to lose 70 percent of their funding, resulting in an estimated 2,800 site closures, 50,000 jobs lost, and nine million Americans losing access to healthcare nationwide.

These centers service millions of the nation’s most vulnerable — one out of every 12 Americans — including 350,000 Alabamians.

“Congress needs to work together and immediately extend funding for our community health centers,” said Jones. “The sixteen centers in our state often serve as the only place for 350,000 Alabamians to access critical health care. Failing to act immediately would threaten the livelihood of some of our most at-risk residents like seniors, veterans, and children. I’m proud to take this step to ensure that leadership does right by the people of Alabama, and Congress finally gives our health care providers the resources they need to continue serving our communities.”

In addition to Jones, the senators who signed on to the letter include:

  1. Tammy Baldwin (Wis.)
  2. Michael Bennet (Colo.)
  3. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.)
  4. Roy Blunt (Mo.)
  5. Cory Booker (N.J.)
  6. John Boozman (Ark.)
  7. Sherrod Brown (Ohio)
  8. Maria Cantwell (Wash.)
  9. Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.)
  10. Ben Cardin (Md.)
  11. Tom Carper (Del.)
  12. Bob Casey (Pa.)
  13. Bill Cassidy (La.)
  14. Thad Cochran (Miss.)
  15. Christopher Coons (Del.)
  16. Catherine Cortez Masto (Nev.)
  17. Mike Crapo (Idaho)
  18. Steve Daines (Mont.)
  19. Joe Donnelly (Ind.)
  20. Tammy Duckworth (Ill.)
  21. Dick Durbin (Ill.)
  22. Joni Ernst (Iowa)
  23. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.)
  24. Deb Fischer (Neb.)
  25. Cory Gardner (Colo.)
  26. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.)
  27. Kamala Harris (Calif.)
  28. Maggie Hassan (N.H.)
  29. Martin Heinrich (N.M.)
  30. Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.)
  31. Dean Heller (Nev.)
  32. Mazie Hirono (Hawaii)
  33. John Hoeven (N.D.)
  34. James Inhofe (Okla.)
  35. Johnny Isakson (Ga.)
  36. Tim Kaine (Va.)
  37. John Kennedy (La.)
  38. Angus King (Maine)
  39. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.)
  40. Patrick Leahy (Vt.)
  41. Joe Manchin (W.Va.)
  42. Ed Markey (Mass.)
  43. Claire McCaskill (Mo.)
  44. Robert Menendez (N.J.)
  45. Jeff Merkley (Ore.)
  46. Jerry Moran (Kan.)
  47. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska)
  48. Chris Murphy (Conn.)
  49. Bill Nelson (Fla.)
  50. Gary Peters (Mich.)
  51. Rob Portman (Ohio)
  52. Jack Reed (R.I.)
  53. James Risch (Idaho)
  54. Bernie Sanders (Vt.)
  55. Brian Schatz (Hawaii)
  56. Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.)
  57. Tina Smith (Minn.)
  58. Debbie Stabenow (Mich.)
  59. Jon Tester (Mont.)
  60. Thom Tillis (N.C.)
  61. Tom Udall (N.M.)
  62. Chris Van Hollen (Md.)
  63. Mark Warner (Va.)
  64. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.)
  65. Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.)
  66. Roger Wicker (Miss.)

Read the full letter below:

Dear Leader McConnell and Minority Leader Schumer:

We write to express our concern over funding for community health centers, which expired on September 30, 2017. We strongly urge you to reauthorize this funding immediately.

Community health centers serve a vital function, providing affordable health care to our nation’s most vulnerable citizens. They provide quality medical, dental, vision and behavioral health care to more than 27 million patients, including 330,000 of our nation’s veterans and 8 million children, at over 10,000 sites nationwide. By offering preventative care, treating chronic conditions, and working to fight the opioid epidemic, community health centers are not only greatly improving the health and well-being of those they serve, they are also saving significant taxpayer dollars.

Without extension of the Community Health Center Fund (CHCF), community health centers will lose seventy percent of their funding. This will result in an estimated 2,800 site closures, the loss of 50,000 jobs, and approximately 9 million Americans losing access to their health care. Moreover, community health centers operate as small businesses and require a level of predictability to operate and respond to the needs of their communities. Since the expiration of the CHCF, community health centers have not been able to adequately plan for everything from staffing needs to securing loans for capital projects. In addition, the expiration of the National Health Service Corps and Teaching Health Centers Graduate Medical Education program threatens the ability of health centers to meet their workforce needs.

For more than fifty years, community health centers have experienced strong bipartisan support. In fact, twenty bipartisan senators cosponsor legislation which reauthorizes funding not only for community health centers but also for the National Health Service Corps.

We look forward to working with you to reach a bipartisan agreement to fund the community health center program and enable our community health centers to continue providing high quality and affordable care to those in need.

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