Allen Williams is chairman of the Jordan Health Corporate Board.
Sometimes we are lucky enough to cross paths with extraordinary people, people whose commitment to bettering the health of our community is boundless. As Chairman of the Board of Jordan Health, I will join with the community to honor three such individuals at our annual luncheon on Sept. 13.
But even as we celebrate, we wonder about the future, about whether our representatives in Congress will again support the work of community health centers by renewing the funding that keeps our doors open.
Jordan Health's honorees represent the many people who work day in and day out at community health centers nationwide. As a primary care physician and now as Chief Medical Officer of Jordan Health, Dr. Laurie Donohue has spent half a life-time providing compassionate care to Rochester's most vulnerable citizens. Lucinda Jackson, now retired, has been with Jordan Health since its early days and ended her long career at our WIC program, assisting new mothers with breastfeeding. For patients whose first language is not English, Carmen Vega is by their side as translator, one of the many roles she has filled in her 40 years of service. I am honored to know these dedicated professionals.
In the Rochester region, over 150,000 people rely on community health centers for care. At neighborhood clinics small and large, they receive primary and preventive care, dental care, mental health and substance abuse treatment, and social work services. The vast majority of health center patients live below 200 percent of the poverty level. They are disproportionately impacted by racial and economic disparities in health - more of them contend with chronic conditions and more of them face multiple challenges in maintaining health.
Just as our patients rely on community health centers, community health centers rely on the federal government for critical funds. In our area, $16 million of federal funds help assure that health centers can provide a full range of services to all, even when they are uninsured. These federal funds will expire at the end of September.
Two years ago, Congress allowed the funding for community health centers to lapse. For nearly six long months, health centers were in limbo. Plans to expand services and upgrade facilities were put on hold. Hiring new or replacement staff came to a halt. What continued was the need of patients for ongoing primary care, a need which does not stop for even a day.
So as Jordan Health celebrates 51 years of providing comprehensive high quality health care to all with dignity and respect regardless of ones ability to pay, we call on our congressional representatives to honor the work of community health centers across the country. Renew community health center funding for five years. Provide annual increases to offset rising costs. Our patients are counting on us - and you.