Health Center News

Fighting the Funding Cliff: One Veteran’s Story

Kymberly Grafton, veteran and patient at Unity Heath Center, Inc.

We’ve been writing about the Community Health Center funding cliff.  The phrase alone would lead one to think that this is an issue about money, but it’s more about people and how the decisions made (or left unmade) by Congress can have a ripple effect.  That brings us to Kymberly Grafton, one of 300,000 veterans that rely on Community Health Centers for care. Grafton, a veteran of the United States Naval Reserve has been a patient at Unity Health Care since 2014. We recently met her on Capitol Hill, where she appeared at a news conference urging action on the Community Health Center funding cliff.

As we mentioned in a previous post, despite broad bipartisan support for the Health Center Program lawmakers have repeatedly failed to reauthorize funding for the Community Health Center Fund (CHCF), opening the door to crippling service interruptions for patients and confusion in health systems across the U.S.  Health center leaders described the impact the cliff is already having at a news conference last month [see NACHC news release] and the situation grows more dire for health centers and their patients every day. There is a lot at stake, especially for health center patients like Kymberly.  Her story:

“I was in a car accident, which gave me debilitating back pain and I was unable to work.  Today, I still have trouble walking, sitting or standing for long periods of time.  After my surgeries, I started going to Unity for primary care, dental and behavioral health services; the Anacostia clinic is a block away from my house.  At Unity, I receive thorough care, where health care is a partnership between the patient and medical providers. However, I am still adjusting to many of the life changes I’ve been through over the past nine years.  This led me to seek mental health services at Unity.  My providers at Unity really care about their patients, I am taken seriously, and I feel important to them. ”

Grafton receives regular treatment at a Unity Health Center site located near her home in Washington’s Anacostia neighborhood.  This is important as she can access care without having to undergo a long trek to the nearest hospital.

“It’s very important because of my disability. Because I cannot walk, stand for long periods of time. This works for me because it’s close to my home,” Grafton recently told The Hill newspaper.

The number of patients at health centers who are veterans has grown by 50 percent since 2008.  They will be among those affected if Congress does not act immediately to fix the funding cliff.