Fiscal Cliff Avoided: Community Health Center Funding Restored

After months of uncertainty for community health centers across the country, last week Congress restored funding to avoid what had been called the health center “funding cliff.”

“Last week’s Congressional action is a big victory for Falls Community Health, approving critical funding that keeps medical, dental, and behavioral health services accessible to our residents. Sioux Falls faced a cold dose of reality when this funding was on the chopping block,” says Mayor Mike Huether.

Without the funding, community health centers were facing significant impacts. According to the Community Healthcare Association of the Dakotas (CHAD), health centers in South Dakota were facing a potential loss of nearly $14 million in revenue, and more than 17,000 patients would have been at risk for losing access to care.

The Community Health Center Fund (CHCF) accounts for about 70 percent of the federal dollars that support community health centers. That fund expired on September 30, 2017, along with funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Although CHIP funding was restored last month, the CHCF was not.

“While this is certainly a victory for health centers,” says Public Health Director Jill Franken, “it is more importantly a victory for the 27 million patients who access care at community health centers across the country. Falls Community Health can now continue focusing on caring for our patients and the community.”

Without the restoration of federal funding, community health centers would have faced serious decisions about staffing and services that could have reduced patient access to care. With last week’s action by Congress, community health centers are now assured of two years of extended funding, including an additional $600 million to further support their operations as they address unmet needs in communities across the nation. In addition, funding was restored for the National Health Service Corps and funding doubled for the Teaching Health Centers program.

Falls Community Health serves about 13,000 patients every year in Sioux Falls at the main clinic downtown and at school-based sites at Hawthorne, Hayward, and Terry Redlin Elementary Schools. Falls Community Health accepts patients with all coverage options, including Medicaid, Medicare, private insurance, and no insurance. Discounts are also available through a sliding fee scale program for those who qualify. For medical appointments, call 605-367-8793, and for dental appointments, call 605-367-8022.