Blunt Rochester, Barragán, Kuster Introduce Legislation to Expand Access to Health Center Services and Strengthen Primary Care Workforce
Washington, May 8, 2023 | Andrew Donnelly (302-893-4406)
WASHINGTON - Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.), with Reps. Nanette Barragán (D-Calif.) and Annie Kuster (D-N.H.), introduced H.R. 3080, the Health Center Service Expansion and Provider Shortage Reduction Act to increase access to mental and behavioral health services provided through health centers, expand weekend and evening hours, create new service sites, and invest in strengthening the primary care workforce through the National Health Service Corps (NHSC). The bill meets the needs of communities nationwide impacted by health care provider shortages and the needs of health centers facing dire fiscal challenges from rising labor costs and the ending of the Public Health Emergency. It also complements existing efforts to reauthorize the Community Health Center Fund and the Biden Administration's FY24 budget request for the Health Center Program and the NHSC.
“Every day, Delawareans rely on the essential primary care services provided by our incredible community health centers, including our Federally Qualified Health Centers. But it’s become increasingly clear that these centers are in need of additional support to meet evolving patient needs,” said Rep. Blunt Rochester, member of the House Health Subcommittee. “That’s why I’m proud to introduce the Health Center Service Expansion and Provider Shortage Reduction Act with Reps. Barragán and Kuster that will require community health centers to once and for all provide mental and behavioral health services and invest in our primary care workforce – helping us maintain public health, strengthen our communities, and support our existing and new primary care providers.”
“Community health centers are a lifeline in so many communities across the country. They serve everyone who walks through their doors, regardless of their ability to pay, or insurance or immigration status — and the patient population is only continuing to grow,” said Rep. Barragán. “In LA County alone, nearly 2 million people rely on health centers for their healthcare needs. Health centers are experiencing declining revenue, rising labor costs, and provider shortages at the exact same time they are making significant efforts to address our nation’s mental health crisis. This legislation is a critical step toward addressing the issues and I’m proud to co-lead the Health Center Service Expansion and Provider Shortage Reduction Act with my colleagues Reps. Blunt Rochester and Kuster.”
“Our Community Health Centers play a huge role in our nation’s health care system – when we invest in them, our entire country feels the benefits,” said Congresswoman Kuster, founder and co-chair of the Bipartisan Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Task Force. “I am proud to introduce this legislation to equip these centers with the tools and funding needed to meet patients where they are through increased mental and behavioral health services, extended hours, and new workforce investments. Mental health is a critical component of wellness, and it is essential that we treat it that way.”
“On behalf of the 1,400 health centers across the nation and the 30 million patients they serve via almost 15,000 health care delivery sites, we appreciate the leadership by Reps. Lisa Blunt Rochester, Nanette Barragan, and Annie Kuster, in introducing the Health Center Service Expansion and Provider Shortage Reduction Act,” said Rachel A. Gonzales-Hanson, Interim President and Chief Executive Officer at the National Association of Community Health Centers. “This legislation will help address gaps in care by providing additional funding to expand access to behavioral health services, bolster service hours, fund new sites, and support the future health center workforce. Critical health center funding expires at the end of the fiscal year, and we look forward to working with Congress to enact bipartisan legislation before that deadline.”
“Advocates for Community Health is proud to endorse the Health Center Service Expansion and Provider Shortage Reduction Act,” said Amanda Pears Kelly, Chief Executive Officer of Advocates for Community Health. “With the right investment, health centers can continue to fulfill their mission as hyper-local health care hubs, treating the full range of complex patient needs and helping entire communities live healthier and more productive lives. It is vital that Congress increase funding for community health centers, and this legislation is a critical step in that direction, supporting health centers as they address the growing need for more behavioral health services, expanded hours, new access points, and a robust, diverse community health care workforce. We are grateful to Representatives Blunt Rochester, Barragán, and Kuster for their steadfast commitment to ensuring a strong health care safety net and look forward to working together to ensure its continued viability.”
“Investing in community health centers and the National Health Service Corps is the right thing to do to improve health for all. The community health center model saves lives and saves money,” said Lolita Lopez, President & CEO of Westside Family Healthcare based in Wilmington, Delaware. “Thank you to U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester for leading this important legislation designed to expand access to care to thousands of Delawareans and millions of Americans living in our most vulnerable urban and rural communities.”
“La Red Health Center prides itself on providing quality care to our patients,” said Brian Olson, CEO of La Red Health Center. “Sussex County is one of the fastest growing counties in Delaware and the need for quality care is growing with it. We are also seeing a steady increase in our patients at La Red Health Center. The need for more health care providers is outpacing demand for services. La Red, like other health care organizations, would welcome legislation that would make it easier to attract more medical providers to our community and make health care more accessible to all Delawareans, including our patients at LRHC.”
Community health centers provide care to over 30 million patients, including children, seniors, rural residents, veterans, people experiencing poverty, and Medicaid beneficiaries - the latter of which is the largest group served by these centers. Since 2020, there has been a dramatic increase in behavioral health conditions such as mental health and substance abuse disorders as well as community health center visits to address behavioral health issues. However, community health centers are not required to provide mental health and substance abuse disorder care. Currently, it’s estimated that community health centers are only meeting 27% of the estimated demand for mental health services, and six percent of the estimated demand for substance use disorder services among their patients. According to the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) estimates, by 2025 there will be a shortage of over 250,000 mental health professionals. The gap in patient access coupled with the ongoing behavioral health workforce shortage has made it increasingly more difficult for community health centers to sustain their primary care services and community reach.
The Health Center Service Expansion and Provider Shortage Reduction Act would address these issues by:
Full text of the bill can be found here.
A one-pager on the bill can be found here.