Policy + Advocacy
Community Health Centers have been a bedrock for primary and preventative healthcare across the United States, especially in Arkansas. Community Health Centers (CHCs) are critical for healthcare delivery and improved economic growth in rural Arkansas. While most Arkansas residents call rural communities their home, they face more health challenges than urban communities. Some challenges stem from a lack of physicians, clinicians, hospitals, and access to preventive healthcare services. There are documented studies how rural communities are losing populations to more urban areas, and when rural populations shift to urban areas many towns and communities are left without having access to quality comprehensive healthcare services. That’s what makes community health centers such valuable assets – and an “economic engine” – to rural areas.
Community Health Centers throughout Arkansas provide a comprehensive model of healthcare delivery – different from what hospitals and outpatient clinics provide. CHCs provide comprehensive primary healthcare services, dental, vision, and mental health services as well as supportive services that includes nutrition education, care coordination, case management, transportation to and from healthcare appointments/sites, and outreach activities to help assist eligible patients. Arkansas’ CHCs have improved the health of the underinsured and underserved communities as well as vulnerable populations by assuring access to comprehensive and quality primary healthcare. Arkansans deserve to have access to affordable healthcare services that promotes quality care.
For over 31 years, Community Health Centers of Arkansas, Inc. (CHCA) has served as the unified voice within Arkansas’ Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), also known as the Primary Care Association (PCA) for Arkansas. CHCA is a not-for-profit organization whose federal mandate is to provide technical assistance, programming, and services for its 12 Federally Qualified Health Centers and their 101 community health center sites. Community Health Centers of Arkansas collaborates with federal and state agencies, national organizations, and academic institutions – as well as key community partners throughout the state of Arkansas. Our goal is to positively influence health changes which allows community health centers to provide healthcare services to all Arkansans regardless of their ability to pay.
In the past, Arkansas’ CHCs have been known to some as a “free clinic” or to only improve the health of the underinsured and underserved communities and vulnerable populations. But as healthcare leaders across the state focus on a healthier Arkansas by looking at how to reduce health disparities, it is my belief that community health centers have served as the foundation for the model of care.
It was President George W. Bush who doubled the number of patients seen at health centers across the United States, and President Barack Obama who committed an additional $2 billion in the American Recovery Reinvestment Act of 2009 to help community health centers expand operations and build new centers. I applaud Arkansas’ elected officials, in particular our Federal Delegation, for being supportive of federally qualified health centers throughout the years. Many of our elected officials understand and recognize the value health centers offer their constituents.
As the Chief Executive Officer for Community Health Centers of Arkansas, I am excited to be a part of such a magnificent organization whose mission is my passion. Beginning in 2017, residents of Arkansas will see the beginning of a powerful movement and a change in the perception of what a community health center is and does and the impact it has on health care.
LaShannon Spencer, Chief Executive Officer