Health Center Leadership Helps Make the Difference in the Access is the Answer Campaign

The Access is the Answer campaign is now in full swing! By the end of March, health center advocates from across the nation had already gathered more than 87,000 signatures on the Access is the Answer petition asking Congress and the President to fix the Health Centers funding cliff. 67 health centers far exceeded the goal of collecting 500 signatures per center and many more stepped up by collecting signatures by organizing petition drives locally. While it definitely “takes a village” to get a drive like this off the ground, one key to the success of many of the health centers that reached this goal was having the strong support of health center leadership – executive directors, chief medical officers, board members and others – in their advocacy efforts.

Aunt Martha’s Youth Service Center and Health Center

Aunt Martha’s Youth Service Center and Health Center

Marsha Conroy, Director of Advocacy and Policy at Aunt Martha’s Youth Service Center and Health Center in Illinois, made the case to her executive team that – with health centers facing a 70% cut to their grant funding – “advocacy needs to happen. We could not simply make a dent.” Rather than focusing more narrowly on clinical operations, “we all needed to step up and advocate for funding,” she said. Over the course of three staff meetings, Conroy explained the goals of the Access is the Answer campaign, listed targets for numbers of petition signatures, and “asked staff to do their homework by signing the petition themselves and asking ten others to sign on as well.” Ex-board president Bill Wesender took this challenge to heart and went into the center’s waiting rooms to explain the campaign to patients and gather signatures. In the case of Aunt Martha’s health center, the commitment and leadership of this former board president along with clear goals to measure their efforts ultimately lead to the collection of 501 petition signatures and ongoing advocacy success across the organization.

Open Door Family Medical Centers

Open Door Family Medical Centers

At Open Door Family Medical Centers in New York, President and Chief Executive Officer Lindsay Farrell made it a point to educate “staff about how advocacy impacts our ability to increase funding.” She noted that “we included information about advocacy in our new hire orientation,” and as a result, every staff member knows “how we’re connected to state and federal legislators in Albany and DC, and that more funding means more centers, more locations, more programs, and more raises.” Farrell also makes it a point to include information about advocacy efforts like the Access is the Answer campaign in her monthly updates that are sent to all Open Door staff. Part of the advocacy success Open Door has been able to realize has been a result of leadership’s effort to instill a culture of advocacy through the organization and make advocacy a part of everything that goes on at the health center.

Central Virginia Health Services

Central Virginia Health Services

At Central Virginia Health Services, Development Director Sheena MacKenzie said that Executive Director Roderick Manifold “understands how the decisions our elected officials make play out in terms of lives of our patients. He personally devotes the time and engages all levels of the organization in advocacy…and supports positions that support our patients.” MacKenzie notes that in the Access is the Answer campaign Manifold has “shown by example and educated and empowered the staff to take ownership of advocacy” by encouraging everyone to do their best by “trying new things and to be creative in getting people’s interest.” Leading by example, Manifold not only exemplifies the type of advocacy commitment he expects from his staff he also recognizes that EVERYONE involved with the health center, from staff to board members to patients must engage for their advocacy efforts to be successful.

Until the health center funding cliff is fixed, the mission to collect Access is the Answer petition signatures continues and the next steps of the Access is the Answer advocacy campaign remain critical to the future of the Health Centers Program. Think about adopting and adapting some of these strategies at your health center and then try setting advocacy collection goals for the coming months! This is a high-stakes, all-hands-on-deck effort that is most successful when Health Center leadership makes advocacy a core component of their center’s mission and overall culture. If you have questions or need help getting started you can contact the advocacy team at And don’t forget to report your advocacy efforts and collection numbers on our website or by emailing

87,307 Signatures Collected by Health Centers for the Access is the Answer Petition Campaign

The end of the month of March marked a successful launch of the Access is the Answer petition campaign with thousands of advocates at hundreds of Health Centers across the nation rising to the challenge and collecting a total of 87,307 signatures! We are proud to recognize the 67  Health Centers that smashed the goal of collecting 500 signatures per center with Westside Family Healthcare in Delaware (4,500 signatures), Nuestra Clinica del Valle in Texas (4,470), and Peak Vista Community Health Centers in Colorado (3,783) rounding out the top three spots. A full list of the 67 HC’s that achieved their March collection goal can be found at

Peak-Vista-Family-Health-Center-at-Divide-CORandy Hylton, Director of Communications at Peak Vista Community Health Centers, noted that this was a truly collaborative effort “made possible by the commitment of the entire staff, engaged community members, neighbors, and patients.”

Many Health Centers employed creative means to get their message out and round-up signatures. “We created fliers at reception that would capture our patients attention. (Another) key factor was our receptionists who had clipboards at the ready,” said Hylton. Employees at Peak Vista were also given information cards that explained the coming health center funding cliff which the petition asks Congress to address as well as petition sheets that they shared “with friends and community members (while) others attended community events and collected signatures,” Hylton noted.

At Nuestra Clinic De Valle, Outreach Director Christian Muñoz noted that advocates made a conscious effort to ensure that petition signersNuestra Clinica Del Valle knew about the challenges facing Health Centers. “Starting right at the door with our medical greeters, through the front line staff, we read the petition to (our patients) because we wanted them to be informed about the local and national issues that affect them,” said Muñoz. “It was not simply about signatures. It was about having our patients involved in their Health Center and knowing about what’s going on .”

Each advocate who signed the Access is the Answer petition took an important step in making the case for health centers and helped elevate the urgent need for  the President and Congress to address the health centers funding cliff.  The Access is the Answer petition was the first step in an ongoing advocacy campaign to make the case for health centers! Advocates can and should continue to collect Access is the Answer petition signatures at their Health Centers and in their community. If your Health Center did not collect 500 signatures in March, try setting your own collection goal for April and May! Every signature helps, and you can report your numbers anytime on our website or by emailing

Advocates should be prepared to begin efforts on the next phase of the Access is the Answer Campaign – the collection of local support letters from local elected officials and community leaders. To learn more, visit the Access is the Answer section of the Campaign for America’s Health Centers website.

Westside Family Healthcare Has Great Success Pushing the Access is the Answer Campaign

- by Chris Fraser, Director of Operations, Westside Family Healthcare, Wilmington, DE


Westside Family Healthcare has had great success in the last few weeks promoting the Access is the Answer campaign. After hearing the NACHC goal of 500 petition signatures per each grantee, Westside Family Healthcare’s President & CEO, Lolita A. Lopez, FACHE, immediately believed that Westside could double that number and generate at least 1,000 signatures.

Westside operates six medical offices and one dental office, and if each location strived for 100 signatures, the goal would be nearly realized. At a staff meeting at the end of February, Lolita conducted a presentation on the Access is the Answer campaign and shared NACHC’s most recent video featuring Dan Hawkins. Lolita then challenged all of Westside with the petition goal and asked each office for a volunteer to join Westside’s grassroots advocacy team.

Staff members from various disciplines joined the team. Since that time, team members have been hard at work. By the end of March, staff had collected over 4,000 petition signatures.

AITA_TranspSeveral strategies have been key to this success. Petitions with the NACHC “Take Action” sign have been posted at every reception desk organization wide including administrative offices. Reception staff members ask patients to sign when they come in for their office visit. Delivery drivers and individuals coming to the office for meetings are asked to sign. Westside’s Office Managers also decided to utilize any medical assistant not assigned to a provider for a particular session, and these staff members canvas the waiting rooms to ask for signatures. Patients have responded with enthusiasm and have been very willing to support the organization that provides their care. In addition, staff members have also taken this petition home to family members, to their neighborhoods, laundromats, youth sporting events, churches, and farmer markets.

Westside Family Healthcare is excited to continue to spread the message that Access is the Answer!

- NOTE FROM NACHC ADVOCACY STAFF: We are so proud of the folks at Westside Family Healthcare for the TREMENDOUS impact they’ve made on the Access is the Answer campaign. Westside has shown us how successful Health Center Advocacy can be and that EVERY Health Center has the ability to make an impact on important policies with a little planning and creativity. We know that each Health Center is different, so be creative and think about what works best for your Health Center as we continue pushing the Access is the Answer campaign for adequate funding for Health Centers. As always, please let us know what does and doesn’t work for your Health Center by emailing

Congressional Briefing Highlights how “Access is the Answer”


- Jen Taylor, NACHC Federal Affairs staff

On Tuesday, March 18, NACHC convened a briefing on Capitol Hill to bring together Congressional staff and community partners to discuss our new policy brief, “Access is the Answer.”

The report examines the issue of access to primary care, highlighting the tremendous need that remains in America’s medically underserved communities.Panelists at the briefing underscored the report’s findings by sharing real stories of how community health centers are working to meet that need while improving health care quality and reducing overall costs.


The briefing was an enormous success, with House and the Senate staff filling the room for a lively and thoughtful discussion led by experts from community health centers across the country.

Our all-star panelists included Teresita Batayola, CEO of International Community Health Services in Seattle, Washington; Dr. Gary Wiltz, NACHC Board Chair and Executive Director of Teche Action Board, Inc. in Louisiana; and two outstanding representatives from Central Virginia Health Services, Inc. – Executive Director Rod Manifold and Board Member and consumer, Peggy Scott. Together the group used their extensive and diverse experience to illustrate the myriad of ways community health centers are overcoming barriers to care and providing a lifeline to primary care services for millions of Americans. 


Attendees were given a copy of the report, as well as a fact sheet that gives a clear overview of exactly who is being impacted by local shortages of primary care providers across the country. NACHC staff also laid out our 2014 legislative priorities to ensure Congressional staff were up to speed on our most pressing policy issues and understand the specific actions Congress must take this year to ensure that health centers can continue to meet the needs of our communities for years to come.


Get 500+ Access is the Answer Petition Signatures at your Health Center! Here’s how you do it.

  • Guest Blog Post by Dana Lawrence

Dana is the Director of Communications & Grassroots Advocacy at the Michigan Primary Care Association. She’s been thinking about ways to ramp up petition signature collection for NACHC’s Access is the Answer campaign, and here’s what she’s come up with:

In an effort to get Michigan Health Center leadership, staff, and board members thinking about how they can collect 500+ signatures on the Access is the Answer petition by the end of March 2014, we, at Michigan Primary Care Association, put together a list of ideas to get the creativity flowing. We ended up with these 14 ways to encourage others to sign the petition. By no means is this list exhaustive, as we know there are so many innovative strategies for spreading the word – our intention was simply to serve as a catalyst. We look forward to hearing how Health Centers in Michigan and all across the country meet the challenge. How powerful it will be when over 600,000 signatures from patients, partners, staff, board members, and supporters attest that Access is the Answer!



Access is the Answer: NACHC Launches New Campaign to Fight Health Center Funding Cuts

Earlier this month during a national TeleForum AITA_TranspNACHC launched a new policy and advocacy campaign called “Access is the Answer”. Health Center Advocates across the country quickly sprung to action to reinforce to Congress and the President that ACCESS to high-quality health care services that Health Centers provide every day is part of the ANSWER to solving America’s health care problems.

America’s Health Centers play an important role delivering care to many Americans and could be the health care home for many more. However, Congress and the President need to act soon to ensure that Health Centers get the funding they need to provide care to their current patients as well as those individuals who currently lack access to care. In 2016, the law as written discontinues funding for the Health Centers Trust Fund, equating to an overall 70% cut. A cut of this size would force Health Centers to close their doors, layoff staff, and reduce the services they provide, leaving millions of Americans without access to the health care services they need.

We strongly encourage all Health Center Advocates to participate in the “Access is the Answer” campaign today. Congress and the President need to hear from you that Health Centers are the ANSWER to our nation’s health care woes and that we need to stop funding cuts and continue growing the Health Centers Program. To make the case, please take the first step in the Access is the Answer campaign to meet our goal  by the end of March.

  1. Goal Number One – Access is the Answer Petition drive: Sign the petition. We’re trying to collect 500 signatures per Health Center, which is about 600,000 signatures total! To do this, we need your help spreading the word about the petition to your friends, family, and colleagues. Post fliers in your Health Center and other community centers, Tweet about the petition, and leave copies of the petition by the front desk or in waiting rooms. Work with your Health Center leadership to launch your own Access is the Answer petition drive locally.

Be creative about how you complete your Health Center’s goals, and please, share what works with us at CFAHC and keep us up-to-date on how it’s going. Remember, America’s communities need and deserve access to quality, affordable health care, and Health Centers are the ANSWER! Thank you for all the work you do as a Health Center Advocate.




Advocacy Success! White House Gets the Message from Health Center Advocates

2013 closed with two important advocacy success stories! The week before the holidays NACHC staff and Health Center Advocates headed to a meeting with an Administration Representative to hand-deliver petition signatures collected by Health Center Advocates around the nation. The signatures were collected as part of the  advocacy campaign to “Fix The Health Center Funding Cliff”, an ongoing effort that will continue throughout 2014. The petition requests that President Obama  “Fix the Cliff” in his fiscal year 2015 budget in order to avoid a 70% reduction in Health Center funding due to occur next year. Our initial goal was to collect 25,000 signatures during the month of October – Health Center Advocates across the country took impressive action, collecting over 45,000 signatures and sending a very clear message to the President!

During the meeting, the senior White House staffer promised to share the results of the “Fix the Cliff” petition drive in October and ensure the Health Center Advocacy message was passed along to the White House Office of Management and Budget – the office responsible for drafting the President’s budget.

Health Center Advocates should be proud of this important recognition by a White House staffer and of the initial collection results of the “Fix the Cliff” petition. Make no mistake, the President received the message and is paying close attention to the important role of Health Centers in their communities.

Caption: From left to right: Jana Blasi, Associate Vice President, Public Policy and Research at NACHC; Rod Manifold, Executive Director of Central Virginia Health Services; Alex Harris, National Advocacy Specialist at NACHC; Amanda Palmore, Development Associate at Central Virginia Health Services.

From left to right: Jana Blasi, Associate Vice President, Public Policy and Research at NACHC; Rod Manifold, Executive Director of Central Virginia Health Services; Alex Harris, National Advocacy Specialist at NACHC; Amanda Palmore, Development Associate at Central Virginia Health Services.


baldwin tweet

As if delivering the petition signatures at the White House wasn’t enough, the  White House also initiated a media blitz  the week of December 9th  to tout the important role Health Centers play in the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The blitz resulted in more than 250 tweets using the #FQHC hashtag and generated more than 500,000 impressions (the reach of the communication) on Twitter. In addition, 11 key Members of Congress tweeted about the importance of Health Centers referencing the good work and quality care they provide in their communities. Check out the White House’s press release here.



Many thanks and major kudos to ALL Health Center Advocates for signing the petition, helping to collect petition signatures, and tweeting during the Health Center media blitz. The actions take by Health Center Advocates yielded important results and key success in 2013! Stay tuned for more activity and  be prepared to take action as we kick off a very busy and demanding year for health center advocacy in 2014.


Community Health Center Advocates Pull Together to Fix the Health Center Funding Cliff

All October we have been urging Health Center advocates to sign the “Fix the Cliff Petition” and stop 70% funding cuts to Health Centers scheduled to occur within the next two years. Our goal was to collect 25,000 signatures in the month of October in an effort to be consistent with the White petition threshold and hopefully garner a response from the President. We are ecstatic to say we have surpassed that goal with a total of 40,832 signatures collected in October! Each petition signer should feel proud of the role they played in helping to meet this goal and know that their signature amassed with thousands of others sends an critical message to President Obama about the importance of “fixing the health center funding cliff” immediately.

A few states and health centers stood out  for their excellent work to push the “Fix the Cliff” petition in their state and community. Over 5,400 signatures were collected in New York, 84% of which were collected on the ground at health centers through hard copy signatures. Kudos to CHCANYS for helping to coordinate, organize, and cheer advocates on as they hosted petition drives locally. North Carolina and Michigan, also came out strong providing leadership in communicating the importance of the petition, setting clear collection goals for signatures, and providing updates and benchmarks to advocates in the state.

Many Health Centers also modeled excellence in their effort to host local petition drives and rally as many signatures as possible in October. Family Health Care Clinic, Inc. collected a whopping 3,615 signatures on the ground across both Mississippi and Alabama. St. John’s Well Child and Family Center and AltaMed in California were also hugely successful and collected over 3,700 signatures. Salud Family Health Center in Colorado was able to collect over 1,400 signatures in part by including a link to the online petition in staff email signatures.

Ongoing efforts to “Fix the Cliff” will take us down a long and demanding path with frequent calls to action in the months ahead. We will be counting on advocates to step up every time we send a NACHC Call to Action. Now more than ever, the future of the Health Centers Program will depend on the commitment and action of our advocates. Many thanks to all the State Primary Care Associations, Health Centers and Health Center Advocates that took this important first step and signed the “Fix The Cliff” petition.


Spotlight: 2013 ALP Grads

“Spotlight: 2013 ALP Grads” is a CFAHC blog series that shines a light on each of our 25 Advocacy Leadership Program (ALP) class of 2013 graduates. The 2013 class began the Advocacy Leadership Program at NACHC’s 2013 Policy & Issues Forum and continued throughout the year participating in advocacy webinars, conducting advocacy activities on the ground at their health center, and completing the program with a final advocacy project. The 2013 class has been learning from NACHC Advocacy Staff and each other how to develop and hone their advocacy skills in order to build advocacy capacity and develop a robust network on the ground at their health center. These blog articles will feature each graduate’s creative and successful advocacy work at his or her health center as a result of completing the Advocacy Leadership Program.


This week’s grad is Dante Rosh, Director of Administrative Services at Family HealthCare Network (FHCN) in Visalia, CA. 

Dante’s goals for her ALP advocacy project were to work with her health center’s staff to improve their understanding of health center advocacy and to increase staff participation in advocacy efforts at the health center. “One of FHCN’s operational goals this fiscal year is that by January 1, 2014, we plan to expand the number of staff who responds to NACHC’s calls for advocacy by 10%,” said Dante. Establishing a measurable goal is one of the best and most important first steps in developing any health center advocacy plan. Dante kicked off her advocacy efforts at FHCN by setting an achievable advocacy goal and gaining the buy-in of leadership staff at the health center.

Dante took another important first step by engaging FHCN staff on advocacy issues: she got their advice. FHCN leadership posted their advocacy goals on the wall one day and requested feedback from staff on how to achieve those goals. “A lot of staff asked, ‘What is advocacy?’, ‘What is NACHC?’, and ‘Why is it important?’ and also provided a lot of great suggestions as to how we could achieve our goal.” Another golden rule of advocacy is never to assume that folks know what advocacy is or why it’s important that they get involved. Dante was able to lead her advocacy initiative with basic education about the “what”, “why” and “how” of advocacy. Once an educational foundation is established, next steps to success are much more easily leveraged.

Dante Rosh photo2

“Dante is also working on incorporating advocacy email sign-ups into the health center’s new hire orientation at FHCN.”

In addition to education discussions,  Dante received invaluable feedback and advice from FHCN staff that led her to develop an email campaign to keep staff informed on FHCN’s advocacy efforts. Dante now plans to include information and updates from the NACHC and CFAHC websites as well as incorporate social media, such as YouTube videos, into the emails to help keep staff informed and easily able to access information. Dante is also working on incorporating advocacy email sign-ups into the health center’s new hire orientation at FHCN.  Looking ahead, once Dante ensures that FHCN staff are up-to-date on health center advocacy issues, she plans to feature them in a advocacy video that promotes the importance of being a health center advocate.

“I am very excited to spread awareness about advocacy in my Community Health Center and look forward to the challenge,” said Dante.

Dante and the advocacy work she is doing at FHCN is a wonderful example of how individual health centers can be successful in their advocacy efforts locally. Well done, Dante and congratulations on successfully completing the NACHC Advocacy Leadership Program.

Second Annual National Voter Registration Day Came and Went with a Bang

NVRD PicTuesday, September 24th, marked the second annual National Voter Registration Day – a day dedicated to empowering communities by registering voters. Hundreds of community-based organizations across the country hosted voter registration drives and other get-out-the vote events.

A non-partisan effort, the creators of NVRD were bothered by the fact that 6 million Americans did NOT vote in 2008 because they missed a registration deadline or didn’t know how to register. The result: a massive campaign to encourage voter registration. Hundreds of organizations hosted events, and the Twitter-scape was ripe with voter registration messages from celebrities from Rosario Dawson and Lewis Black, various Members of Congress, and organizations such as Nonprofit VOTE and Rock the Vote, both organizations NACHC partners with.  Overall, there were 1,500 tweets using the hashtag #CelebrateNVRD creating over 9 million impressions!

Health centers play an extremely important role in empowering the communities in which they work. That’s why most already are involved in registering their patients to vote. Community Health Vote, a project of NACHC, offers an online portal that will allow you to easily register to vote with just a few quick questions. The portal also gives registrants the option to become health center advocates. Encouraging patients to register to vote and vote is an invaluable function of health centers as community leaders.