If one walks around the expansive halls of the Hyatt Regency in Orlando the buzz and excitement is palpable. Committee meetings have been gaveled and policy directions in key areas, such as Medicaid, appropriations, substance use, Medicare and 340B have been discussed and mapped out. Health center leaders are rolling up their sleeves and doing the work, but as NACHC Board Chair Jim Luisi said in today’s Opening General Session, “Now the time is right to begin taking a hard look at ourselves internally.” Luisi identified several goals for health centers to prepare for the challenges and threats ahead which include the health center funding cliff next October. He urged attendees to become part of the growing Health Center Advocacy Network and made a pitch for the NACHC ACE (Advocacy Center of Excellence) program, saying, “Advocacy is crucial if we are to succeed. Only 7 percent of health centers have become Advocacy Centers of Excellence. They account for 30 percent of all responses to calls for action.”
Luisi also cited numerous health center accomplishments to celebrate, such as the broadening reach to special populations, including veterans; the addition of oral, vision and behavioral health into health center practices (87 percent of health centers now offer behavioral health services on site) and cutting-edge strategies to treat substance use disorders, including opioid addiction.
Other high notes of the General Session included the 2018 Outstanding Achievement Award to Chris Shea, retired Chief Executive Officer of Cherry Health in Grand Rapids, MI. In his remarks, Shea reflected on the health center mission to address the whole health of the patient, body, mind, and spirit. He said, “I have expectations for all of you in this room. I would hope that we go on from an integration in health care to a focus on health and wellness so that when we ask the question, ‘is everybody well yet?’ We can answer, ‘yes, we’ve taken care of that.'”
The 2018 Legacy Awards were also announced:
- Frances Anthes, President and CEO of Family Health Center in Worcester, MA, was honored with the Cornell Scott Excellence in Leadership Award.
- Kimberly Mitroka, President and CEO of Christopher Greater Area Rural Health Planning Corporation in Christopher, IL, was honored with the Wilford Payne Spirit of Unity Award.
- Pam McManus, President and CEO of Peak Vista Community Health Centers in Colorado Springs, CO, was honored with the Jesse Trice Excellence in Leadership Award.
- Bobbi Ryder, President and CEO of the National Center for Farmworker Health, Inc., in Buda, TX, was honored with the Aaron Shirley Courage in Social Justice Award.
“Collectively these award winners have contributed 139 years to health centers and the patients they serve,” noted Mike Holmes, NACHC Board Treasurer.
The General Session was capped by the official launch of a partnership with NACHC and Sesame Street and a special celebrity appearance by “Super Grover.” The partnership aims to reach families with relevant resources to face every day and difficult challenges. Resources will be made available to Community Health Centers nationwide. The initiative is intended to address the needs of children, particularly in the areas of trauma, emergencies (natural disasters and man-made disasters, such as gun violence) and all areas regarding the health and well being of children. Health centers serve 8.4 million children.
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