As part of our 50th anniversary celebration we are looking for stories about how Community Health Centers make a difference in their communities. This time our search took us to Sixteenth Community Health Centers (SSCHC) in Milwaukee, WI. The health center sprang into existence in 1969, just a few years after the first health centers were started in rural Mississippi and Boston, MA and recently celebrated its 45th anniversary. It now operates out of five separate locations, including three full service medical clinics serving a total of 36,000 people. That may seem like a lot of people to care for, but for Sixteenth Street the focus is on quality. In addition to being accredited by The Joint Commission and recognized by the National Committee for Quality Assurance as a Patient Centered Medical Home, in December the health center was recognized as a Health Center Quality Leader, by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
“I have always said that the emphasis in our agency name is ‘community health’ not on ‘health center’. What sets us apart is our dedication to the complete health of the individual as well as the overall health of the community,” says John Bartkowski, President and CEO of SSCHC.
In addition to offering a range of excellent primary care services under one roof–such as adult and pediatric medicine, behavioral health services, women’s health, HIV prevention and treatment and physical and occupational therapy–the health center also runs an array of heath education and community-based programs that support healthy living and foster community improvement. SSCHC employs nearly 400 bilingual staff, many of them community residents and injects over $30 million of operating expenditures directly into the local economy. Through its sponsorship of WIC, SSCHC also supports local farmer’s markets and purchases goods and services directly from local businesses.
SSCHC offers up a real world example of what is at stake when we are talking about the health center funding cliff. The health center faces a funding cut of up to 70 percent if Congress does not act to preserve the funding. Such a cut would result in over 3,300 patients losing access to care, in addition to the bruising effect on the local economy.
To learn more about the health center funding cliff, please visit this link.