Community Healthcare Centers brace for federal funding cliff

WICHITA FALLS - Community health centers across the country are facing a federal funding cliff after Congress missed a critical deadline for those funds over the weekend.

Providers say thousands of patients could lose access to care and while the facilities here are stronger than most, they are still preparing for the worst.

"It has a special place right here in my heart," patient Janice Waldon said. "I love this place." For 72 years, Waldon has seen places come and go in Wichita Falls.

She's seen the community health center in town built from the ground up. As a longtime patient, it's a place she cherishes.

"This is what I say and I believe this with all my heart. It's a god send for the people in Wichita Falls," Waldon said.

Some of what Waldon has come to expect in services there could be in jeopardy and community health centers across the nation are facing uncertainty.

Wichita Falls Community Healthcare Center CEO Allen Patterson says while the facility has a strong backbone, they are now preparing for the unexpected. That's if Congress doesn't bridge the federal funds it needs to keep all their current services up and running, which means seeing less patients.

"So that would be about two thousand patients, six thousand to seven thousand visits and that would start happening in just not too far past the 30 days," Patterson said. That would mean 10 percent of the local patient panel could get dropped and it would also translate into up to 40 jobs lost.
 
"We're okay for 30 days. After that then we'll have to look at all of the above," Patterson said. He says Congress is making some progress.

The Energy and Commerce Committee began to 'mark up' legislation Wednesday, looking to expand funding for two years. 

In a statement Texas 13th District Congressman Mac Thornberry said, "I have co-sponsored legislation to extend funding for community health centers and I am hopeful that Congress will soon address this and other funding issues."  

"This health center is poised to do some great things for this community right now," Patterson said.

Although they is making a move, community health centers are still urging folks to reach out to members of Congress to fix the problem. For more information, click here.


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