It was a great day for attendees at today’s NACHC General Session. George Sigounas, Administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) announced a funding opportunity of $200 million for health centers to boost access to high-quality integrated behavioral health services, including prevention or treatment of mental health conditions and/or substance use disorders, including opioid use disorder. This was big news for health centers already working hard on the front lines of the national opioid use epidemic. Sigounas noted that health centers are critical to the national strategy of addressing the opioid crisis and underscored HRSA’s commitment to continue investments in the treatment and prevention of substance use disorders through behavioral workforce expansion and training, telehealth and connecting stakeholders. Sigounas also said that the health center work “demonstrates our commitment to shared goals,” such as reducing maternal mortality rates, addressing the HIV epidemic, reducing childhood obesity and promoting health care technology.
The General Session also featured remarks from Chris Traylor, Deputy Administrator and Director for the Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. Traylor has deep roots in Texas and with Community Health Centers, recalling that he received his first immunizations as a child from a health center in the Rio Grande Valley. That was, as he described it, a moment of realization. “If we as a community — a larger community within the nation — if we value those [health center] services and value that care, then we are a stronger nation… You are the backbone of our health care system. I deeply appreciate what you do and what you have done and what you will mean to the system over the long term in the future.”
Traylor’s address was followed by Eric Hargan, Deputy Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. Hargan described how he makes it a point to visit a health center in every city his visits. He also described his focus at HHS is to take a hard look at regulations that make it difficult to coordinate care. Lastly, Hargan expressed deep appreciation for the work of health centers “who have played an important role in addressing America’s HIV epidemic and combating the opioid crisis and advancing toward a value-based health care system.” Hargan also touched on the quality of care at health centers, whether it is “battling the stigma” of HIV treatment and prevention, fostering innovation or simply adhering to a model of care where patients are “treated like a person and not a number.”
Tomorrow’s General Session will focus on the policy developments regarding immigrant care and present health center staff and patients will tools and resources to address health care and social service challenges. Stay tuned and keep following #NACHC19PI.