Getting to Yes: Recruiting Your Legislators to Sign The Health Center Funding Cliff Letter

With Health Centers facing a 70% reduction to Program funding in FY 2016, a small group of Senators and Congressional Representatives stepped up to lead a bipartisan “Dear Colleague” Senate and House letter to address this Health Center Funding Cliff. The letters are addressed to Congressional Leadership and by co-signing, Members of Congress publicly state their support for the Health Centers and the need to fix the Health Center Funding Cliff. The House and Senate letters are currently circulating for signatures in Congress.

“These letters are vitally important in setting the stage for continued funding for Health Centers into the future,” said NACHC’s Director of Federal Affairs John Sawyer. “We have seen over and over again that it’s outreach from back home that makes the difference and turns a member from ‘no’ to ‘yes’,” noted Sawyer.

So far, 55 senators and 219 representatives have added their names to the letter. Health Center advocates from across the nation have been advocating hard and employing different advocacy strategies to bring their legislators to the table and get them to commit to co-sign the Health Center Cliff Letter.

Seferino

Seferino Montaño, Chief Executive Officer of La Casa Family Health Center in Portales, NM

For Seferino Montaño, the Chief Executive Officer of La Casa Family Health Center in Portales, NM, the key to enlisting Representative Steve Pearce (R) as a co-signer to the Health Center Funding Cliff Letter was “constantly educating him and keeping him involved in the issues facing Health Centers. We continually tried to frame the issue through a rural perspective.In the Pearce’s district, which covers nearly half the state of New Mexico, Health Centers like ours are, for much of the population, the only source of health care that is both accessible and available,” said Montaño. Through emails, personal correspondence, phone calls, and in person visits “we continually made the case for the current and growing need for the services that we provide and the consequences for his constituents should funding for Health Centers be cut.” All these efforts helped create a strong relationship with the Representative that resulted in Pearce signing the “Dear Colleague” letter after being contacted by Montaño. “When I’m in DC for the Policy and Issues Forum next Spring, I plan to personally visit Representative Pearce on the Hill and thank him for his support,” said Montaño.

David D'Amato

David D’Amato, Senior Health Policy Director of the Alaska Primary Care Association

In Alaska, David D’Amato, Senior Health Policy Director with the Alaska Primary Care Association, noted that “Community Health Centers are so central to our way of life that, in absence of these health care homes, there would literally be no health services available to a large number of residents.” Both Senators Begich (D) and Murkowski (R), who also serve on the pivotal Appropriations Committee, “reallynities,” said D’Amato. It is this understanding on behalf of Alaskan lawmakers, as well as the personal relationships that have been formed with Begich and Murkowski and Health Centers across the state, that has helped create a strong, responsive relationship enabling the Alaska PCA and Health Center Advocates to reach out and secure signatures from both senators and their Representative to the letter. “Health Cent seem to understand that the consequence of the Health Center Funding Cliff to Alaska is that, if underfunding the Health Centers causes a CHC to close on the Alaska frontier, there is literally nowhere else for their constituents to go for health care in many of their commuers in Alaska are like a marriage vow: they are there for people in richness and poverty, and we’re blessed with a federal delegation who gets this,” he said.

John Silva, Chief Executive Officer of Morton Comprehensive Health Services

John Silva, Chief Executive Officer of Morton Comprehensive Health Services in Tulsa, Oklahoma

For John Silva, Chief Executive Officer at Morton Comprehensive Health Services in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the political environment around issues related to health care in Oklahoma has been exceptionally challenging in a Republican dominated state. “In large part, the conversation in Oklahoma has been an economic one when it comes to the Health Center Funding Cliff. So, we make sure to highlight the number of patients that we serve and the professionals that we employ,” said Silva. To help make the case for the continued funding of Health Centers, Silva and his colleagues have “shown up for everything: at collaborative partnerships, small meetings, and gatherings of the Tulsa Chamber of Commerce – a relationship that we have worked to foster over the last three to four years. We also started a monthly speaker series, inviting our elected officials, foundations, and the community at large, to come and learn about the issues facing the Health Centers.” Said Silva, “Speaking out on behalf of our Health Center is something we continually do year-round.” As a result of efforts like these, Senator James M. Inhofe (R) and Representative Tom Cole (R) have signed onto the “Dear Colleague” letter and other legislators “who have been reluctant to go near anything related to health care, have been quietly working with us on the sidelines, helping to set up meetings and open important doors,” noted Silva. In some ways “we were the little engine that could,” he said.

Though these Health Centers and the Alaska PCA operate in regions with distinct political and social differences, all were able to successfully reach out and recruit their Members of Congress to sign the “Dear Colleague” letter based in large part upon the relationships they had built-up with their members over time. With a small window left in this year’s Congressional session, Health Center advocates must press on and actively reach out to their Members of Congress. Only by having a large number of bipartisan co-singers, will we send the unmistakable message to Congressional leadership and the President that support for Health Centers is strong and that the Health Center Funding Cliff must be fixed.

Take action today:

  1. Call the NACHC Advocacy Hotline at 866-456-3949 to contact your Members’ offices directly and ask that they co-sign the Health Center funding cliff letters.
  2. Email your Senators and Representative and ask them to co-sign the Health Center Funding Cliff letter (send your email through the Grassroots Action Center by entering your zip code here).
  3. Share any feedback you receive by emailing grassroots@nachc.com.

A copy of each letter can be found here along with updated lists of congressional signers and talking points.

“We can’t write anyone off in this effort, and we’ll need the action and leadership of every advocate in the country to get this done. The deadlines for signatures are fast approaching, so take action now,” said Sawyer.

 

Stephanie Wiersma, Rebecca Shaw, and LCH&D Staff: September 2014 Outstanding Advocates

(Photo courtesy of Lorain County Health & Dentistry)

NACHC’s advocacy team is excited to announce the Outstanding Advocate for September 2014. This month, we are recognizing not just one person, but a team— the staff at Lorain County Health & Dentistry in Lorain, OH.

Each August, Health Centers across the country observe National Health Center Week (NHCW). It’s a time to celebrate the work of and incredible care provided by Health Centers in their communities. NHCW is more than just a time to celebrate; it’s also a tool to help Health Centers showcase their services and the value they bring to the community, as well as advocate on a local and national level for continued support of the Health Center Program. True to the theme of NHCW 2014, CHCs really are “local engines for healthier communities.”

One Ohio Health Center embraced both the theme and the purpose of NHCW in a special way: Lorain Country Health & Dentistry (LCH&D) in Lorain, OH. Led by CEO Stephanie Wiersma and Outreach & Volunteer Coordinator Rebecca Shaw, the team at LCH&D took advantage of every opportunity to turn the energy and excitement around their NHCW events into action!

Beginning on August 11 and continuing throughout the week, LCH&D held health fairs at each of their locations, including two new sites in Elyria, OH. The health fairs provided the opportunity to showcase not only the sites themselves and the services provided, but also the numerous partnerships that LCH&D has with other community organizations and businesses. At the two Elyria sites in particular, the health fairs served as a way for LCH&D to introduce themselves to the community and begin to build new relationships – a factor they view as key to their success in caring for the community.

CEO Stephanie Wiersma (2nd from right) joins in on the fun of Spirit Week on Tiki Tuesday! (Photo courtesy of Lorain County Health & Dentistry)

In addition to the health fairs, Stephanie and Rebecca wanted to engage the Health Center staff- not just patients and community members. According to Stephanie’s philosophy, “when there’s an opportunity to have a little fun, we take advantage of it!” This led to the implementation of “spirit week”, where the staff dressed according to a different theme each day. Even bigger than the fun of each day’s theme, the activities that took place at LCH&D during NHCW had a deeper meaning. Rebecca remembers colleagues using their wacky outfits as an opportunity to educate and advocate, saying to patients and visitors, “yes I know my shoes don’t match- let me tell you why…” and continuing the conversation about Community Health Centers and why they are so vital to local communities.

This year, for the first time, LCH&D entered NACHC’s NHCW Video Contest. In promoting their submission and encouraging colleagues and patients to vote in the contest, they could never have imagined the outpouring of support they’ve received from the community, both for their video and for the Health Center in general. Stephanie was featured in a radio interview, and a local newspaper- The Morning Journal- even ran an article about the contest! Beyond staff and patients encouraging their family and friends to vote, Stephanie and Rebecca have seen an increase of awareness in the community around the care and services provided at LCH&D. Rebecca noted that just by telling others about the contest, and therefore, the Health Center, all of these people “are being advocates and they don’t even realize it!”

All in all, National Health Center Week was a huge success at LCH&D. Stephanie and Rebecca agreed that it brought the staff closer and got everyone more engaged, and all of the hype and publicity around the contest has helped get their name out in the community. At the time of this writing, the contest was in its final days, and the winner had not yet been decided. Stephanie reflected on the outcome, saying that even if their video didn’t get the most votes, “we’ve already won. We’ve made health care fun.”

[UPDATE 9/15/14: NACHC is thrilled to announce that LCH&D’s video “All Aboard the Healthy Train” was selected as the NHCW 2014 Video Contest Grand Prize Winner!]

Many thanks to Stephanie, Rebecca, and the rest of the staff at LCH&D for all of their hard work during NHCW 2014 and beyond! Congratulations on being our September 2014 Outstanding Advocates!

 

For more information on how your health center can get more involved in advocacy, email us at grassroots@nachc.com. Do you know an Outstanding Advocate who deserves this recognition? Let us know! Email Elizabeth Kwasnik at ekwasnik@nachc.org.

National Health Center Week 2014 A Huge Success! Thank You & Congratulations!

By Amanda Pears Kelly – NACHC National Advocacy Director

Open Door Family Medical Center

Open Door Family Medical Center

Every year, with an increasing sense of excitement, the planning for National Health Center Week (NHCW) begins months in advance of the actual event. NACHC, State Primary Care Associations, Health Centers and even individuals start brainstorming, about what their NHCW celebrations will entail and how to best showcase the great work of health centers and the critically important role they play in their community. This year was no exception. Despite the usual deadlines, challenges and competing demands for time and resources, health centers from coast to coast planned and delivered some of the best celebrations yet!

Nearly every state in the nation participated in NHCW this year and more than 600 health centers held more than 1500 events during NHCW 2014. The Administration once again helped to kick off NHCW this year, when President Barack Obama issued an official proclamation recognizing August 10th -16th as National Health Center Week 2014. HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell and HRSA Administrator Dr. Mary Wakefield also helped celebrate NHCW by joining NACHC President & CEO, Tom Van Coverden and Health Center Leaders from around the country for a special NHCW 2014 Teleforum highlighting the countless ways that health centers are leading the nation in providing high quality, accessible care to all those in need. You can access the call transcript and recording on the Health Center Week website.

The NHCW success story goes on: more than thirty states, counties and localities also issued resolutions and proclamations in recognition of this year’s celebration. More than 80 Members of Congress participated in NHCW events, sharing kind words of support and pointing to the critical role health centers play in our communities and to the patients they serve. Hundreds of print, radio and broadcast media pieces also appeared throughout the week covering the wonderful events and celebrations happening around the nation.

We’ve done our best to document the success of NHCW 2014 by adding links to media coverage and posting event photos on the Health Center Week website and CFAHC Facebook page. If you haven’t yet had a chance, checkout the NHCW website to see this year’s NHCW in the News section. NHCW 2014 was also a big hit in the world of social media, garnering posts from dozens of members of Congress, state and local elected officials and partner organizations recognizing the vital role health centers play in the communities they serve. Thousands of NHCW tweets and Facebook posts went out using the #NHCW2014 hashtag, helping to spread the word about health centers and in recognition of NHCW 2014.

As a way to keep the celebration going throughout the month of August we encourage everyone to send us pictures and videos captured during your NCHW event celebrations. You can email them directly to grassroots@nachc.com . Also be sure to submit the best images and videos as part of the NHCW Picture & Video Contest . The contest submission period is open through August 29thvisit the contest pages to access rules and submission guidelines. The contest is a great way to gain national visibility for your health center and showcase the great events and celebrations hosted during NHCW. Keep the celebration going and make your submission today!

Year after year we have proudly organized and celebrated National Health Center Week, and there is one thing we know for sure: NHCW is a success because of the tremendous hard work and dedication of the staff, board members and patients at health centers everywhere. We want to take this opportunity to THANK YOU for another wonderful year of celebrations and success and congratulate you on a job extremely well done.

We are already thinking about National Health Center Week 2015 (August 9th – 15th) and we hope you’ll join us next year to raise the bar once again and make NHCW 2015 even bigger and better than each year prior.

Thank You.

The NACHC Advocacy Team

Amanda Pears Kelly – National Advocacy Director

Alexandra Harris – National Advocacy Specialist

Elizabeth Kwasnik – Grassroots Advocacy Manager

Joshua Speiser – Manager of Grassroots Advocacy Outreach & Communications

Yvette Ammerman – Associate Director for Western Operations

 

Join Together in Celebration of National Health Center Week and Farmworker Health Day

– In recognition of Farmworker Health Day on August 14th during National Health Center Week 2014, we welcome guest contributor Bobbi Ryder, President and CEO of National Center for Farmworker Health, Inc.

Bobbi Ryder

Bobbi Ryder, President and CEO of National Center for Farmworker Health

As we join together in celebration of National Health Center Week and Farmworker Health Day, I would like to encourage you to be bold in your embrace of this population and continue to seek ways to integrate both migratory and seasonal agricultural workers and their families into our care and our communities with the respect and dignity that they deserve. One way to do that is to challenge ourselves to make sure that all agricultural workers who are eligible for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are enrolled and participating, and to increase the total number of agricultural workers who are able to make their medical home with a Migrant or Community Health Center.

I am confident that you will agree that Migrant and Community Health Centers are, and must remain, the primary points of access to care for the migrant and seasonal farm workers who give so much and ask for so little in return. The enactment of the PHS 329 Migrant Health Act in 1962 was a landmark event that set the stage for what we know of today as the Community Health Center Program, which now includes rural and urban, insured and uninsured, as well as several special population groups. In the ensuing years, we have seen the development of a wealth of high quality health care services across our nation, providing access to individuals in communities who would not otherwise be able to obtain health care services. This legislative act was a key transformational moment in the evolution of health care policy nationwide.

Whether because of migration, multiple employers, day labor or income status, agricultural workers are at risk to be among the residual uninsurable in this nation who will remain outside of the mainstream solutions for improvement of health. To ensure that everyone eligible for coverage does become insured, there is a role for each of us, both individually and collectively, to assure equity for the patients we serve. We must be engaged in our communities, we must engage our patients in articulating their needs and we must assure that they continue to have access to care, even where the ACA does not provide a solution to their continued lack of insurance.

The number of agricultural workers and their family members served in Community and Migrant Health Centers has hovered just under 900,000 for several years, and yet we know that there are significantly more who go unserved. I would like to issue a challenge to you collectively to make a commitment to increase that number in your health center by just 10%. Let us strive collectively to reach and surpass the 1 million mark in the coming years. Do we have the collective enthusiasm to rise to that challenge?

Jim Kim, currently President of the World Bank and formerly a top executive of the World Health Organization and Chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School uses extreme goals to reform the World Bank. Let us take a lesson from his examples.

Examples of Kim’s goals include: assuring that 3 million HIV suffers in developing countries received antiretroviral treatment by 2005. He met that goal in 2007, his current goal as President of the World Bank is to end world poverty by 2030.

What better way for us to recognize the contributions that agricultural workers make to the economic infrastructure of our nation than to make sure that they are able to enjoy the benefits of this most recent change in health care policy?

I encourage you to help us lay the groundwork to assure that migratory and seasonal agricultural workers are able to receive and access the high-quality care provided by our nation’s Health Centers.

My best to you,

Bobbi Ryder, President and CEO, National Center for Farmworker Health

Breaking the Links Between Poor Health and Homelessness

– In recognition of Health Care for the Homeless Day on August 13th during National Health Center Week 2014, we welcome guest contributor Dan Rabbitt, Health Policy Organizer for the National Health Care for the Homeless Council

Dan Rabbitt, Health Policy Organizer for the National Health Care for the Homeless Council

Homelessness is bad for your health – and also bad for your health care. People experiencing homelessness don’t have the basic supports most people take for granted. A safe place to rest and heal, protection from the elements, and a secure place to store medications are all hard to come by without stable housing. The lack of housing—a key social determinant of health– makes people sicker, exacerbates existing illnesses, and makes effective treatment incredibly challenging. It is no wonder those experiencing homelessness die 30 years earlier than their housed counterparts.

Thankfully, the Health Center program, which includes Health Care for the Homeless (HCH) projects, is dedicated to surmounting these challenges, having provided care to more than 1.1 million homeless patients in 2012. For over 30 years, HCH programs have been serving those without stable housing and have learned how to adapt their services for a population with such limited resources. The National HCH Council Clinician’s Network has developed adapted clinical guidelines to treat dozens of medical and behavioral health conditions common among those without homes, and the Health Center model of patient-centered, team-based care effectively delivers care needed to treat the complex health and social needs of individuals and families experiencing homelessness.

Furthermore, the Health Center program is often the only place people with little or no income can turn for health care besides emergency rooms. Serving everyone regardless of their ability to pay is an essential requirement of the Health Center program and allows very low-income people to access essential primary and preventative care. Many HCH programs have sliding fee scales that charge no copays for those earning less than the federal poverty level, a policy that significantly reduces barriers to care. In turn, these policies save the entire health care system by preventing unnecessary emergency room and inpatient hospital costs.

While access to quality clinical services is critical, housing is the best medicine for individuals and families without homes. Many HCH programs partner with housing providers in their communities to help those they serve obtain stable housing and the supports needed to maintain it. While a wide range of housing programs are available, permanent supportive housing is a particularly successful and cost-effective model for those struggling with significant health care conditions. The National HCH Council and our ally CSH are currently working to promote partnerships between health centers and permanent supportive housing programs, hoping to expand the reach health centers can have to improve the health of those without homes.

The Health Center and HCH program has learned a great deal in the past 30 years and now have more data and better policies to support housing stability for those that need it. In recognition of Health Center Week and HCH Day this year, celebrate the strides made to make homelessness rare and brief and further strengthen your commitment to improve the health of your patients who lack stable housing and need your support more than ever.

Holding Effective Meetings with Your Elected Officials During National Health Center Week

NHCW square1 2014As National Health Center Week 2014 (August 10 -16) approaches, many Health Center advocates have been successful at lining up visits with their Members of Congress onsite at their centers. At time of publication, more than 30 Members of Congress have already confirmed attendance at National Health Center Week events, with event commitments coming in daily.

By introducing Members of Congress and all elected leaders to health center patients, staff, and Boards of Directors, they are able to bear witness to the vital and essential services the health center provides to the community. Furthermore, these visits are a prime opportunity to present your Member of Congress with signed Access is the Answer petitions and letters of Health Center support from elected officials and community supporters. But how can centers take advantage of these visits to make them transformative events that help shift a Member of Congress from a supporter into a true Health Center champion?

Jana Eubank

Jana Eubank, NACHC Associate Vice President for Public Policy and Research

NHCW is arguably the best opportunity Health Centers have each year to educate their members of Congress (as well as state legislators) about the important work of Health Centers in your states. It makes it so much more real for them to see Health Centers in action and observe firsthand the tremendous impact health center staff, clinicians and board members have in communities across the country,” said Jana Eubank, NACHC Associate Vice President for Public Policy and Research. “(Texas) Congresswoman Kay Granger and Senator John Cornyn are great examples of elected officials who have become champions in Congress for the Health Center program and credit their strong support to their direct interaction with Health Centers ‘back home.’ Both members regularly visit health centers and are Co-Chairs of the Community Health Center Caucus in the House and Senate.”

“It’s important to remember that just having an elected official take a tour of the center isn’t always enough to help them truly understand the impact your center has in your community,” she continued. “As a former PCA staffer, I’ve been fortunate to participate in numerous Health Center events with elected officials. Successful events have a couple of common characteristics – members are given time to interact with patients, staff and Board Members and are offered the opportunity to play an active role in the Health Center event. This can be accomplished by setting aside some “quiet time” for them to meet with Board of Directors to discuss issues impacting the Health Center and patients. Or if you are having a health fair or community event put them to work. Let them be a judge in your children’s art contest, assist with food preparation or ask them to help handout school supplies or other items to your patients.”

“Remember, elected officials work hard and also need to have a little bit of fun,” said Eubank. “NHCW is a joyous occasion. Let your member be a part of the celebration and play an active role in your NHCW event this year. You will be amazed at how grateful they will be for being included and how impactful these visits can be in cultivating and strengthening relationships on the ground. A well planned visit can turn your Congressional member from a health center supporter into a health center champion.

As noted by Eubank,the presence of elected officials at Health Centers during National Health Center Week is an extraordinary opportunity. Done well, these visits can lay the groundwork for new relationships with Members of Congress who have little or no history with your Health Center and further strengthen existing connections.

Once confirmed, please let us know about these Congressional visits by emailing grassroots@nachc.com and make sure to post your events on the National Health Center Week website Again, be sure to deliver your signed Access is the Answer petitions and letters of Health Center support from elected officials and community supporters at these meetings. For additional resources, including how to communicate effectively and build a relationship with your elected official, check out the Working with Elected Officials page on the Campaign for America’s Health Centers website.

Terry Langston: Outstanding Advocate, July 2014

NACHC’s advocacy team is excited to announce the Outstanding Advocate for July 2014, Terry Langston, Development Officer for the Center for Family Health (CFH) in Michigan.

Terry joined the CFH staff in November 2013, where he put his 20-plus years of experience in fundraising and nonprofit leadership skills to work. In addition to his formal role as Development Officer, Terry does much of the public relations and social media work for the Center, helping to spread the word about the value of Community Health Centers, and CFH in particular, far and wide.

In March, he attended the NACHC Policy & Issues Forum (P&I) in Washington, DC and participated in the Advocacy Leadership Program (ALP). Held before the start of the conference, the ALP is a day-long, intensive advocacy workshop that teaches participants how to start or strengthen existing advocacy programs at their Health Centers.

Following the P&I, Terry returned to Michigan ready to ramp up CFH’s efforts on NACHC’s Access is the Answer campaign. After collecting over 500 signatures on the Access petition, he set to work on getting letters of support from community partners and local elected officials. His approach to this phase of the campaign was both strategic and deliberate; Terry tailored his message for each audience he approached, and was not only successful in securing more than 15 support letters, but also two resolutions on Access is the Answer from the City Council of Jackson, MI and the Jackson County Board of Commissioners.

Seeing the success of his efforts on the campaign and the buy-in from senior leadership at CFH, including the CEO and Board Chair, Terry turned his efforts toward establishing a patient advocate committee at the Center. The committee members, four of whom are CFH Board Members, will work directly with him on the creation and implementation of a strategy for further engaging local elected officials, additional community partners, and the community at large in Health Center advocacy. The wide support for making advocacy a priority that Terry enjoys plays a large part in the success of the program he has worked to get up and running.

Terry was recommended for the ALP by the Michigan Primary Care Association’s Director of Communications and Grassroots Advocacy, Dana Lawrence. “Through his creativity, can-do attitude, and engaging personality, Terry is doing a tremendous job at activating advocates. He is committed to the Health Center mission, and has been successful at garnering local support for the Center for Family Health, thus helping to raise the visibility of the Health Center Program in Michigan.”

Congratulations, Terry, on being our July 2014 Outstanding Advocate!

 

For more information on how your Health Center can get more involved in the Access is the Answer advocacy campaign, email us at grassroots@nachc.com. Do you know an Outstanding Advocate who deserves this recognition? Let us know! Email Elizabeth Kwasnik at ekwasnik@nachc.org.

Health Centers Successfully Gather Letters of Support from Local Elected Officials and Community Leaders!

On one the most powerful tools that the Access is the Answer campaign employs is the collection of letters support from local elected officials and community supporters. Presented in person to Members of Congress during National Health Center Week when these federal elected officials often visit Health Centers in their districts, these letters of support strongly make the case that community leaders – from mayors to school board members, hospital administrators to religious leaders – stand behind Health Centers and are unified in their call for Congress and the President act to fix the ­­­Health Center funding cliff.

So far, Health Centers have gathered approximately 1300 letters of support from local elected officials and community leaders. Many Health Centers far exceeded the initial request to collect 5 letters of support from local elected officials and 10 from community supporters. What were some of the keys to their success?

Screen Shot 2014-06-19 at 10.56.37 AMFor the Lorain County Health & Dentistry Health Centers in Ohio, “Advocacy is part of our culture and we take our advocacy responsibilities very seriously,” said President and Chief Executive Officer Stephanie Wiersma. Lorain County Health & Dentistry Health Centers, which collected 60 local support letters, “reached out to leaders who recognize and value our centers’ role in providing high-quality, accessible care to the community,” noted Wiersma. “We made a conscious effort to craft our requests for written support in a way that efficiently summarized why Health Centers are so important and why we need our elected officials and community supporters. We asked these individuals to print up the letter on their own stationery and then followed up with them on three separate occasions.” Said Wiersma, “ultimately we’re only as good as we can be if we’re responsive and attentive to the current and future needs of our Health Centers.”

Adelante-Surprise-ExtAvein Saaty-Tafoya, Chief Executive Officer of Adelante Healthcare in Arizona ­– which gathered 28 letters – noted that “the Adelante Healthcare board of directors and leadership team/staff were highly engaged and motivated to contact all our partner organizations and elected officials to sign letters of support for Health Center funding. The inspiration behind our success in this effort was Dr. Gary Cloud, Dean of Advancement at AT Still University/SOMA and a co-founder of both the School of Osteopathic Medicine Western Clinicians Network. Dr. Cloud is a self-described ‘Health Center zealot’ and happens to serve on the board of Adelante and chairs the advocacy committee. Together we have shared the NACHC message so that we can secure funding and continue to serve the needs of our communities.”

Sea Mar Community Health Centers in Washington state topped the list by collecting a total of 116 letters. Kristina Hoeschen, SeaMarAdministrative Services Director noted that “both the CEO and Deputy Director at Sea Mar have made advocacy a priority.” Health Center leadership issued a challenge to managers in each of the 10 counties it serves to collect 10 letters of support within a month. “Our clinics are deeply plugged in to their communities and many have cultivated strong relationships therein. As a result, we found elected officials and community supporters were quite responsive to our letter requests.” Furthermore, Sea Mar’s leadership stayed engaged throughout their month long campaign “and, following up on reminders from NACHC, urged clinics to keep up the effort on a regular basis.”

Screen Shot 2014-06-19 at 10.48.11 AMFor Angie Boyles, ACA Outreach and Enrollment Coordinator for the Low Country Health Care System in South Carolina, the tight knit nature of her rural community proved to be a strength in gathering 49 letters of support from local elected officials and community leaders. “With the support of the Health Center management, I did a lot of outreach. I first contacted individuals via email, making the case for Health Centers and explaining the upcoming funding cliff, and then followed up with face-to-face visits.” In many cases, these individuals knew Angie personally, had personal connections with Low County Health Care via friends and family or were patients themselves. In many ways, Low Country Health Care System – one of the few providers in the area – “is the bedrock of the community and people responded to our request for letters of support generously.”

Four different Health Centers, four different stories. But, at each, there were dedicated advocates who are willing to sometimes get out their comfort zone and reach out to community supporters and their elected leaders. Moreover, these advocates were backed-up by Health Center leadership that is committed to a culture of advocacy.

Until the cliff is fixed, the effort to collect letters of support is ongoing. Make it a point at your Health Center to collect 10 letters of support from local elected leaders and 5 from community supporters and then personally deliver them to your elected officials during National Health Center Week (August 10 -16) and MAKE THE CASE for Health Centers. THIS IS A CRITICAL ACTION STEP AND AN ACHIEVABLE GOAL! Once collected, please be sure to report your results using the campaign report form or by emailing us at grassroots@nachc.com.

Only by bringing together the support of Health Center advocates, local elected officials, and community supporters will we be able to send the unmistakable message to the President and the Congress that EVERYONE is paying attention and that this issue is too important to ignore. They must act NOW to fix the funding cliff and ensure that Health Centers receive the funding and resources needed to continue providing high quality care for communities in need throughout the nation.