Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today announced that the federal government designated three new community health centers in Vermont to increase from eight to 11 the number of health centers that will provide primary care for some 163,000 patients throughout the state.
"This is a huge step forward for health care in Vermont in providing high-quality, affordable primary care, dental care, low-cost prescription drugs and mental health counseling to people throughout Vermont," said Sanders, chairman of a Senate subcommittee that oversees primary health care.
Altogether, the eight current Federally-Qualified Health Centers operating now in Vermont served more than 130,000 patients last year, one of the highest participation rates in the country. The $2.4 million in new funding released by the Health and Human Services Department today for three additional Vermont centers will serve about 33,000 additional patients, for a total of about 163,000. In addition, about 25,000 Vermonters received dental care at community health centers, a number which will also rise.
A Sanders provision in the Affordable Care Act authorized $11 billion to build, expand, and operate community health centers throughout the United States.
Nationwide, the latest round of grants awarded today totaled $150 million for 236 new community health centers around the country to serve more than 1.25 million additional patients.
In Vermont, $775,000 was awarded for the Battenkill Valley Health Center to operate a new Federally Qualified Health Center in Arlington, Vt., the first such facility in Bennington County to win full recognition as a Federally Qualified Health Center.
The Five Town Health Alliance in Bristol, Vt., was awarded $812,500 to operate the first center in Addison County.
Another $812,500 went to the Gifford Medical Center in Randolph, Vt., in Orange County.
And an Essex County site in Canaan, Vt., will open as part of a $456,793 grant to the Indian Stream Health Center headquartered in nearby Colebrook, N.H.
"As chairman of the subcommittee on primary health, I am proud that we have seen in recent years a tremendous increase in the number of community health centers in Vermont to address the primary health care crisis in our state and throughout the United States," Sanders said. Northern Counties Health Care in 1976 became the first Federally Qualified Health Center in Vermont. A center in Burlington, Vt., won federal designation in 1993.
The federally-funded but locally-run centers are open to everyone and care for patients covered by Medicaid, Medicare and private insurance, as well as those who have no insurance. Payments are on a sliding scale, so people with low or moderate incomes can afford the care they need.