The NACHC Community Health Institute and Expo officially has kicked off, ushering in new board leadership and noting the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and the importance of addressing health care inequality. During the opening general session Dr. Gary Wiltz, CEO of Teche Action Clinic in Franklin, LA, took the helm of the organization’s board and expressed his thanks to immediate past chair Kauila Clark saying, “we were very fortunate to have Kauila’s guidance and leadership” and praised him for reminding NACHC members to draw on their inner strength, values and history.
The session highlighted both the great work of Community Health Centers, and also the challenges that lie ahead as the health system continues to evolve, with NACHC CEO Tom Van Coverden remarking on the legislative issues facing health centers.
“To stabilize, strengthen, and to grow the health center program—that’s our goal, that’s our aim,” said Van Coverden about the organization’s direction.
The CEO also reminded attendees that “NACHC has always been the voice of the people, our people. Those are our children, our parents, these are our people. We will never give up on what we are trying to do because we care for our people.”
Dr. Wiltz followed Van Coverden’s remarks and recounted why he became a part of the health center movement “health centers are about giving a voice to the people, about change, most of all about finding solutions, so today I am very proud to be part of NACHC and even prouder to accept their charge as board chair.”
He then spoke about the importance of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington quoting Dr. King “of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking.”
“The American dream is intertwined with the work that we do. In our way we have helped to fulfill that dream that Dr. King had about breaking down those inequalities and injustices through the work we’ve done,” said the new chair before listing Community Health Centers’ achievements. “We should take pride in what we have accomplished.”
Those achievements include:
- Leading the nation in removing barriers that exclude people from care
- Being recognized as an essential part of the American health delivery system
- Serving over 22 million people and expecting that number to rise to 35 million in the next five years
- Building the largest primary care network in the country, with 9,000 sites in urban and rural communities
- Serving one in every 15 Americans
- Saving the nation $24 billion annually by preventing disease, reducing disparities, and managing costly chronic disease
“We boldly go where no one has gone before us,” said Dr. Wiltz. “Who would have of imagined over 50 years ago, during the war on poverty, that we were going to serve these 22 million people. We did and we made it come true.”