Nationwide | Boise, ID.  –  After more than three months on the precipice, funding for community health centers looks poised for reauthorization.

Budget deals in the House and Senate include funding extensions for these centers, which often are lifelines for rural areas.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, in 2016 these facilities served more than 170,000 Idahoans in nearly 660,000 visits.

Yvonne Ketchum-Ward, CEO of the Idaho Primary Care Association, says community health centers largely serve low-income Idahoans with half living below the poverty level. It’s also a population in need of medical care.

“Fifty-percent of our patients have some sort of behavioral-health, mental-health issue,” she points out. “There’s a high incidence of substance abuse.

“So, we’re really talking about a very vulnerable population that our health centers serve, and they want to continue to be able to do that.”

Community health centers have bipartisan support but, like the Children’s Health Insurance Program, have been wrapped up in congressional budget talks.

Along with the federal budget, the deadline for funding health centers is Thursday.

A lot is on the line for community health centers. The Kaiser Family Foundation says 20 percent of health centers have reported hiring freezes and 4 percent have laid off staff nationwide.

In Idaho, Ketchum-Ward says the three-month delay in reauthorization has meant centers can’t expand to areas in need and some have even had to consider what services they’ll have to cut to stay afloat.

Ketchum-Ward says these facilities have been living month to month.

“That’s no way to run any medical clinic or any business,” she states. “So, we need to move past this so that we can do what we’re supposed to do, which is serve patients and render good care and not be worrying every day about the ability to pay for it.”

Ketchum-Ward says 70 percent of funding for Idaho community health centers is at risk if funding isn’t reauthorized.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service