ELYRIA – New data released this week by the National Association of Community Health Centers indicates that centers are serving more people than ever, with more than 24 million patients nationwide.
Many of those patients are served by over 235 health center sites in Ohio, including Lorain County Health and Dentistry, which is celebrating the opening of its new facility during this week’s observance of National Health Center Week.
Stephanie Wiersma, CEO of Lorain County Health and Dentistry, says locations such as theirs often cater to a population that may only have an emergency room visit as an alternative.
“Care at community health centers is top notch, and we make care relevant to the population,” she says. “We respect the culture of those we serve and we understand that needs may be different, and may be greater, and we position ourselves to meet those needs.”
According to the National Association of Community Health Centers, health center facilities offer care at a fraction of the cost of an emergency room visit, and result in fewer emergency visits to hospitals. Nationwide, almost 40 percent of emergency room visits are considered primary care in nature, and therefore preventable.
Wiersma says while Ohioans with private or employer-supported health insurance have access to a variety of health care options, health centers often serve populations who struggle to find care from the private sector.
“For many people who have Medicaid or Medicare, they struggle to find a provider willing to accept that insurance,” she says. “So a community health center specifically seeks to serve the population that is underserved, and that will likely go without health care.”
Health centers began 50 years ago as a pilot project during President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty, and now serve health care needs for one in 14 Americans.