While it may seem odd that a health center is reaching out to you to make sure you are registered to vote and participate in this year’s election, it actually makes perfect sense. On the ballot every year, there are initiatives and positions that directly impact our communities and patients. Policymakers at all levels of government greatly impact health care funding and delivery in our communities.
Many initiatives and important decisions at local, state, and federal levels are critical to providing access and support to our patients. A recent example is the CARES Act at the Federal level, which helped increase access to our patients in these unprecedented times.
Your voice really does count when helping to decide policies and who will be making those decisions, and your vote matters!
If you aren’t registered to vote, it’s a quick and easy process and can be done online at https://vote.gov
If you are registered to vote, research candidates, proposed measures and initiatives. Vote at every opportunity and vote as soon as you are able to.
A census aims to count the entire population of a country, and at the location where each person usually lives.
The census asks questions of people in homes and group living situations, including how many people live or stay in each home, and the sex, age and race of each person. The goal is to count everyone once, only once, and in the right place.
The United States census is so much more than just a head count. It is a snapshot of America that determines how congressional seats are apportioned, how state and federal dollars are distributed, where businesses choose to ship products and where they build new stores. To do all that properly, the count needs to be accurate.
An undercount of the population would have a big impact. The data helps to determine the congressional representatives each state is apportioned and their representation in state legislatures and local government bodies. It would shape how billions of dollars a year are allocated, including funds for schools and hospitals. And undercount would undermine the integrity of a wide variety of economic data and other statistics that businesses, researchers and policymakers depend on to make decisions, including the numbers that underpin the forecasts for Social Security beneficiaries.
Federal and State Spend
The federal government bases a large amount of its spending decisions on census data. Researchers concluded last year that in the 2015 fiscal year, 132 government programs used information from the census to determine how to allocate more than $675 billion, much of it for programs that serve lower-income families, including Head Start, Medicare, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Pell grants for college and reduced-price school lunch programs. Highway spending is also apportioned according to census data.
Planning for various health and wellness programs
Low response rates from any one demographic group would undermine the validity of various population-wide statistics and program planning.
Scientists use census data to understand the distribution of diseases and health concerns such as cancer and obesity across the United States population, including drilling down to race and ethnicity to identify health patterns across demographics. Public health officials then use the data to target their interventions in at-risk communities. Inaccurate census data could lead public health officials to invest in solving a problem that does not exist — or worse, to overlook one that does.
Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) is a one-time food benefit for children who qualified for free or reduced-price school meals when schools were closed last spring. P-EBT provides funds (up to $399 per eligible child) to help low-income families buy groceries. It works like a debit card and can be used at any store or farmers markets that accept food stamps (SNAP). Children are eligible for P-EBT regardless of citizenship or immigration status; it is not a public charge for a child or their family if they use P-EBT.
If an eligible family does not already receive food stamps (SNAP), they must complete a simple application to receive P-EBT. Apply via DSHS online (www.WashingtonConnection.org) or by phone (877-501-2233, 8am – 5pm Monday-Friday). P-EBT applications must be completed by Friday, Sept. 11 by 5pm.
Almost 219,000 eligible Washington children have not yet applied for P-EBT — please help families learn about and apply for this critical food benefit before Sept. 11!
Spread the word to your school districts, local community-based organizations, faith communities, mutual aid organizations, and more so our communities can help make sure low income families get help to feed their kids.
Click the link below to learn more about how the program works and who is eligible (note: application deadline has been extended to Sept. 11). OSPI also has a P-EBT Communications Toolkit with FAQs and outreach materials in 12 languages to include in all Back to School communications with families. https://medium.com/@waOSPI/what-is-pandemic-ebt-a7a086fcaf94
Policymakers at all levels of government greatly impact health care funding and delivery in our communities. At CHAS we want to share our appreciation to our federal delegation, Senators Cantwell and Murray, and Representative McMorris-Rodgers from Washington, and Senators Crapo and Risch, and Representative Fulcher from Idaho. With the passing of the CARES Act, the Community Health Center Program was extended through November which has been critical to providing access to our patients in these unprecedented times due to the pandemic.
When data showed that adult dental Medicaid utilization rate was very low across Washington, CHAS worked closely with our State Legislators and the Washington Association for Community Health to fund dental capacity grants. With legislative support, CHAS was able to garner funding to help build East Mission Dental and Family Dental which increased thousands of additional dental visits for low-income patients. Additionally, working with past and current Spokane City Council Members and Mayors and state legislators, local and state funding was secured to help build the East Central Dental Clinic set to open in October.
These are just a few examples of why we are very grateful to have the support of elected officials at all levels of government and from all sides of the political spectrum. Without their continued help, CHAS would simply not be able to continue to improve the overall health of the communities we serve. During National Health Center Week we wanted to take a moment to say thank you to our elected officials and their hardworking staff for their partnership and efforts!
Health Centers began as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society Program in 1966 and were first known as ‘neighborhood’ health centers. The program was developed to provide access to affordable, high-quality preventive and primary care in medically underserved communities and for underserved populations, including millions of individuals without health insurance. The Health Center program was permanently authorized under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), signed into law March 2010.
Health Centers have a proud history of bi-partisan support. President George W. Bush championed the ‘Presidential Five-Year Initiative to Expand Health Centers’ (2002-2006), effectively doubling the size of the program. Under President Barack Obama’s Administration, the Health Center program continued to experience unprecedented growth. Health Centers were the only health care providers to receive direct funding in the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), which granted $2 billion to construct and expand Health Centers. The next year, the ACA was signed into law mandating $11 billion in new Health Center funding over five years (2011-2015). In April 2015, Congress passed legislation to continue Health Center funding for an additional two-years, reflective at the amount of additional annual funding received through the ACA.
We are proud of our roots and so thankful to every one of our patients we have the privilege to serve.
Today is Healthcare for the Homeless Day. We wanted to take this opportunity to honor our unhoused patients and the staff who directly serve them. CHAS Health began as a two-exam room clinic serving Spokane’s homeless population in 1994. Since then, the organization has grown to operating sites throughout Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho. CHAS’s mission is to improve the overall health of the communities we serve by expanding access to quality health and wellness services. Our downtown location that serves many of our homeless patients and our homeless outreach team.
Those experiencing homelessness have higher rates of chronic disease and live on average 12 years less than the general US population. However, CHAS Health and community health centers around the nation are on the frontlines providing increased access to care for this vulnerable population.
Our Outreach Team (Ilze and Sabrina) is focused on connecting to those without a home to check on their wellbeing, providing much-needed support, supplies, and access to the care they may need. Learn more about this important role:
Additionally, every winter solstice CHAS hosts a Homeless Memorial, a ceremony where we gather together community leaders, clients, and staff to honor our unhoused patients who passed away the previous year.
In today’s value-based care environment, organizations are accountable for improving health outcomes and lowering costs. To achieve these goals and succeed in such an environment, organizations need to better understand their patients to address both their clinical and non-clinical needs and impact the root causes of health, including patients’ health behaviors, health outcomes, and health costs. The social determinants of health (SDH) are the conditions in which people live, work, play and age. They can encompass socioeconomic conditions, environmental conditions, institutional power, and social networks. Understanding patients’ social determinants will allow health centers to transform care with integrated services to meet the needs of their patients, address the social determinants of health, and demonstrate the value the bring to patients, communities and payers.
At CHAS Health, our Patient Services Coordinators work with patients to help address social determinants of health through many different avenues. In addition, we work hard with our community partners to help ensure no one falls through the cracks and has access to the services they need.
Learn about working in at CHAS Health as a Patient Services Coordinator with Stephanie:
National Health Center Week, August 9th-15th, is an annual celebration aimed at raising awareness about the mission and contributions of community health centers, like CHAS Health, over the past half century. This year’s theme is “Community Health Centers: Lighting the Way for Healthier Communities Today and in the Future.” In 2019, 84% of CHAS Health’s patients identified as low income and we served nearly 15,000 patients experiencing homelessness. Community health centers were created specifically to address health disparities and we are proud to continue to meet this mission.
While it can be challenging to find cause for celebration during these uncertain times – we feel now more than ever it is important to highlight the great work that CHAS Health and Health Centers across the nation are doing.
In Washington State alone, our community health centers have adjusted operations to meet the increased demand for healthcare from uninsured patients throughout our communities. These changes include expanded telehealth access, opening of COVID testing sites, and increased public education activities.
These interventions have served as a shock absorber to help our local hospitals avoid overcrowding. While there is still more to do, we hope this week will serve as an opportunity for us to share some of our great work.