Community health centers expand beyond primary care


America’s first community health centers opened their doors in 1965 and the system has been growing ever since.

Today, about 1,400 federally-supported health center programs provide primary care to an estimated 28 million patients – roughly 1 in 12 U.S. residents.

These clinics have always focused on reaching underserved populations. That has meant finding ways to bridge the financial, cultural and geographic barriers that contribute to the nation’s deep health care disparities.

Now, many community health centers are challenging clinical barriers as well. The American health care system has historically provided medical, dental and mental health services separately. But thanks to support from the Affordable Care Act and a growing recognition of the value of “whole patient care,” community clinics across the country are finding ways to incorporate oral and behavioral services into the primary care they provide.

At Health Journalism 2019, a panel of health center leaders will explore the challenges and benefits they have encountered as they have worked across disciplines to bring medical, dental and mental health care to their patients. And they will discuss the work that lies ahead for the nation’s community health centers.

The session “Community Clinic Inroads in Oral, Primary and Mental Health” will include panelists Phyllis Colombaro, chief dental officer at La Red Health Center in Georgetown, Delaware; Nilesh Kalyanaraman, chief medical officer at Health Care for the Homeless Baltimore; and Jenene R. Washington, a Baltimore-based pediatrician and health executive who has worked on a national level to transform care at community health centers.

The panel is slated for 3 p.m. on Saturday, May 4. Hope to see you there!

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