Today thousands of health center advocates stormed Capitol Hill to say “thank you” for fixing the Cliff, and to share stories of how our people-powered movement cares for 27 million patients nationwide. After all, we’ve got a lot to be excited about in the Health Center Movement. Last month’s budget deal provided an additional $600 million for health centers, and a two-year extension of the Community Health Centers Fund (CHCF), National Health Service Corps (NHSC), and Teaching Health Centers Program. Sometimes referred to as the Health Center Three-Legged Stool, these programs underpin health centers’ operations and recruitment efforts, and the extension provided by Congress will give health centers some well-deserved reliability and predictability after the month-to-month drama of the cliff.
But let’s put aside all of the fancy policies, legislative ideas, and talk of budgets for just a moment. When you strip away all of the tv cameras and floor speeches, politics is really about one thing: sharing powerful stories face-to-face. And today, health center champions from around the country ‒ still decked out in “code red” scarves from February ‒ spoke with passion, poise, and energy about patients who are now in better physical, mental, and dental health because of their health centers to hundreds of legislators and staff.
On the heels of Wednesday’s pre-Hill training, today I watched hundreds of first-time visitors navigate the winding corridors and bustling halls of Congress, and lobby their Representatives and Senators about the 340B Drug Discount Program, long-term funding for health centers, the importance of Medicaid, and more support in the battle against opioid addiction. Congress can be intimidating and alluring all at once, but time and time again, our advocates ‒ novice and veteran ‒ were steady and unwavering. They shared story after story that showcased the broad range of clinical expertise and specialties at health centers that keep our patients healthy, and save the health system money. More importantly, they had fun doing it!
So when each of you get back home later this week, remember to do three things: (1) follow up with your Representatives and Senators about everything you discussed today; (2) say “thank you,” for fixing the cliff through September 2019; and (3) get some rest because we’ll need every one of you back in D.C. soon to make sure health centers remain a top priority in Congress.