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Grassroots Efforts Help Neighborhood Health Clinic Secure Funding

Neighborhood Health Clinic Inc.

Neighborhood Health Clinic is one of 1,400 Community Health Centers across the country. They rely heavily on federal grants to keep their doors open and a majority of their patients are uninsured. This year the clinic implemented grassroots techniques to secure their funding. 

Neighborhood Health Clinic is a federally-qualified health center. It receives 20% of their revenue from the federal government. Funding for community health centers was debated in Congress last year, and when Congress let funding expire on Sept. 30 the clinic lost $2.3 million from their budget.

Last year, the center saw 17,000 patients and the federal grant they receive covers the salaries of most employees providing care.

The clinic was worried about their funding. They implemented a partial hiring freeze, delayed new services, and didn’t know how to plan for 2018.

Neighborhood Health Clinic CEO Angie Zeagel says they engaged in grass-roots advocacy efforts to make sure the funding went through. Patients were invited to email, call or write letters to their elected officials. The staff, board members and other key stakeholders also joined in the efforts.

“There are a lot of other partner agencies in the community that were real concerned about if we weren’t able to serve as many people especially because we take care of a lot of uninsured… where would those patients go?” said Zeagel.

Zeagel said they thought their funding would be included in the December budget, but that didn’t happen. Then they watched as congress let the Children Health Insurance Plan (CHIP) funding expire. Zeagel said they were in uncharted territory and wondered where their patients would go for treatment. Congress approved funding in early February with an additional $600 million to support all health center operations.

Zeagel said lessons were learned after this year and they will revisit their business model and are going to begin thinking outside the box. She adds that the community didn’t realize how much their elected officials affect their lives.

“People think that politics don't really impact your everyday lives I would argue against that and this is a case in point, because I bet you every single one of us can think of someone that is uninsured or maybe relies on Medicaid and for their health insurance coverage,” said Zeagel.

Unlike the CHIP program that received funding for the next 10 years, funding for Community Health Centers will be up for debate again in two years.