Tsongas Joins 150 House Members to Pledge Support for Local Health Centers

Greater Lawrence Family Health Center President and CEO John M. Silva recently issued a plea to legislators to resolve what he called the “funding cliff crisis.”

Congresswoman Niki Tsongas is among a bipartisan group of 150 lawmakers from the U.S. House of Representatives who issued a letter to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan petitioning on behalf of local health centers last week.

Led by Tsongas and four of her colleagues from New York, Connecticut, Arizona and Iowa, the letter calls for a five-year reauthorization of the Community Health Centers Fund (CHCF), which expired at the end of September.

As a result, 70 percent of community health centers’ federal grand funding has been slashed.

Greater Lawrence Family Health Center, which operates six centers in Lawrence and Methuen and had planned a site in Haverhill, faces the potential loss of $3 million in funding.

In a plea to her colleagues on the House floor in September, Tsongas argued fervently for her constituency. “…A lack of funding means too many of my constituents would immediately lose access to care, putting the health of our communities at risk,” she said.

One-hundred fifty-five House members who signed the reinstatement request letter agree.

“Community health centers across the United States have delivered affordable, accessible, and quality primary health care to patients, regardless of their ability to pay, for more than 50 years,” the letter stated. “They serve more than 27 million individuals in almost 10,000 urban and rural communities by caring for the whole person, bringing together medical and behavioral health with pharmacy services. They also serve our nation’s veterans, providing care to over 330,000 veterans last year alone.”

The National Association of Community Health Centers said loss of the bipartisan Health Centers Fund, created in 2010, could cause an estimated nine million patients to losing care, 50,000 jobs lost and 2,800 health center sites to close their doors.