Community health centers (CHCs) are non-profit community-driven clinics providing high quality primary and preventive care to all individuals, with or without insurance and regardless of their ability to pay. Health care services are affordable and discounts are offered based on a sliding fee program to people who qualify. Every CHC provides medical and behavioral/mental health services and some sites also have dental and substance abuse services. Transportation, translation, case management, and health education are offered making access to healthcare easier. CHCs represent a critical source of primary care in our health care system and are located in areas of the Dakotas where care is needed but scarce. The Dakotas have 61 CHC sites that provided care to over 90,000 patients in 2011.
There are five main ways a community health center (CHC) is different from other primary care providers.
- CHCs are only located in communities with a high need for health care
- Medical and behavioral/mental health services are offered at every CHC site
- Medicaid, Medicare, private insurance, and uninsured patients are all accepted
- Health center patients must be the majority on the governing Board of Directors
- CHCs must report on and meet 19 requirements for need, services, governance, and finance and management
CHCs focus on primary care and know that staying healthy costs less than getting healthy. Lower health care costs benefit the patient, community, and health care system in general. The services offered are customized to create a medical home that is community-driven and patient-centered to best meet the health care needs.
Financial benefits come in a variety of ways to the patient and the community:
- Offers discounts based on income to make primary and preventive care affordable
- Reduces expensive emergency room and specialty clinic services
- Saves the patient gas money by providing local health care
- Decreases employee sick days
- Creates jobs
- Stimulates local economy
Patients from many ethnic and cultural backgrounds call a CHC their medical home. CHC Programs are available for special populations with limited health care resources including low-income, migrant and seasonal farm workers, and homeless and public housing residents, Staff and providers at a CHC work together to provide CHC Services to meet the high quality health care and basic access needs of each patient.