The deadline for Congress to reauthorize the Community Health Center Fund is January 19. Nearly 200 California clinics serving low-income and uninsured patients could be affected.
Congress did not renew the funding last fall. And while there’s a temporary fix until March, the resolution keeping the program alive long-term expires this month.
“It feels wildly discouraging," said Andie Martinez-Patterson, director of government affairs for California Health+ Advocates, which represents safety net clinics.
“What we understood was that there just simply wasn’t the urgency to really fix the problem. And so they patched it. And it feels very possible that that could be a reality for the entire year - it just keeps getting patched.”
California’s community health centers provide primary care, dental care and mental health services to about 6.5 million people.
Advocates say that without the federal grants, some clinics - especially struggling rural clinics - will have to lay off staff and cut down on the services they offer.
“They have kind of hunkered down, so to speak," Martinez-Patterson said. "They’ve done hiring freezes. If they were exploring expanding access to a new site, they’ve stopped doing that. And they all have their contingency plans in order and know what they’ll have to do if the funding doesn’t come through.”