Community Health Center (CHC) Program
What is a Community Health Center?
Community Health Centers (CHC) are private, non-profit entities that deliver health care services based on consumer influence and participation. Typically, CHCs provide primary and preventive care to medically underserved and uninsured people.
CHCs intent differs from other health care clinics in several ways. CHCs are mandated to improve the health status of the entire community in addition to the health of individual patients. The Primary Care Office assists the development and sustainability of Community Health Care Centers by providing ongoing assessment of community health needs, and technical assistance regarding program development and evaluation.
What are the main components of a Community Health Center?
The United States Department of Health and Human Services has four basic requirements for Federally funded/supported Community Health Centers:
- CHCs must serve areas that are designated as a Medically Underserved Area or Medically Underserved Population (MUA/MUP). The designation criteria include poverty levels, number of providers and health status indicators.
- CHCs must provide primary and preventive primary care, dental and mental health services (on site or by arrangement).
- A volunteer Board of Directors representative of the communities serve must govern the CHC. In addition, a majority of the board members must be users of the health center.
- CHC must provide services to everyone regardless of a patient’s ability to pay. Health care services are not provided for free. CHCs offer sliding fee scales for patients without insurance.
How does a community apply for Community Health Center status?
- The community contacts the PCO or PCA. The PCO determines if their community is a designated MUA or a MUP.
- Form a Board of Directors.
- The Board of Directors determines if the clinic they are proposing can provide access to comprehensive health care including primary, mental and dental health. Services do not always have to be provided on-site; they may be provided through contracts or a referral system.
- Determine if the population to be served is large enough to submit a competitive application for a CHC.
- Submit application to United States Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) and Bureau of Primary Health Care (BPHC).
Will a CHC in a community put the private practice providers out of business?
The CHC federally funded programs have a policy of not competing with private enterprise. One of the primary expectations of a CHC is for its’ board to collaborate with the other health care providers in the area. Typically, CHCs serve patients that are not served by private providers.
Current status of Community Health Centers in Alaska
Alaska currently has twenty four organizations that receive funding for community health centers in over seventy-two sites. Community health centers now serve approximately 68,000 Alaskans. In Alaska, community health centers are operated by not for profit organizations, tribal health corporations, and governmental entities.
Alaska has experienced significant growth in the Community Health Center program since 1974, when its first Community Health Center was funded. To a great extent this has been due to the “Alaska Frontier Health Project,” that the Alaska Primary Care Office has helped to frame, participate in, and implement. Major funding initiatives in fiscal years 2001 through 2003 increased the federal health dollars for community health centers in Alaska by about $20 million, and expanded the number of community health center sites from ten to sixty. An additional twelve sites have been added in 2004 and 2005.
The State of Alaska through its Primary Care Office program, monitors the availability of federal funding for new Community Health Centers. During those times when federal funding is available for new Community Health Centers, the Alaska Primary Care Office in partnership with the Alaska Primary Care Association and with the federal Health Resources and Services Administration, work cooperatively with organizations and communities in Alaska to take advantage of this funding opportunity. For more information please contact email@example.com.
Resources for Community Health Clinic applications and technical assistance
Alaska Primary Care Office
Alaska Primary Care Association
HRSA Field Office
Bureau of Primary Health Care