SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Syracuse Community Health Center Inc. (SCHC) is concerned it may have to close three patient centers and lay off 75 health-care workers if a federal grant program isn’t restored.
That’s because a federal-funding program that it depends on expired Sept. 30, and Congressional lawmakers have yet to restore and extend the funding, according to U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D–N.Y.).
The Democrat on Monday visited the SCHC to hold a news conference to discuss the situation. Those attending to listen to Schumer’s remarks included representatives from community health centers serving areas that include Cortland, the North Country, Finger Lakes, Northern Oswego County, and the Utica–Rome area.
“You’ve heard all about the budget fights in Washington. One of the main issues we’re fighting for is to fully fund our community health centers. We don’t want to just do it a year at a time,” Schumer told the crowd.
Without the funding, SCHC would be forced to lay off nearly 75 employees, close three health-care delivery sites, and reduce services by $3.8 million, according to Schumer’s news release. The organization employs nearly 260 workers and serves as a primary-care provider for more than 30,000 people.
SCHC and similar facilities across Central New York are known as federally qualified health centers (FQHCs), according to information that the New York City–based Community Health Care Association of New York State (CHCANYS) provided at the news conference.
Federally qualified health centers are community-based health-care providers that receive funds from the HRSA health-center program to provide primary-care services in underserved areas, according to the HRSA website.
HRSA, which is short for Health Resources & Services Administration, is an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Without Congressional action, New York FQHCs could lose up to $166 million in federal funding, which would lead to closures of health-center sites, layoffs of providers and staff, and a loss of access to primary and preventive care for “millions” of New Yorkers.
Federal FQHC funding comes from two sources that include annual discretionary appropriations and the health centers fund, which expired on Sept. 30, 2017, according to the CHCANYS information. Sept. 30 was the end of the most recent federal fiscal year.
The centers use the funding to sustain health-center operations, including helping to “partially” cover the cost of caring for the uninsured, CHCANYS added.
“I have a little bit of clout in Washington. I’m going to use every ounce of that clout to see that our community health centers are funded as the next budget comes to us, which is by Feb. 8,” Schumer said.
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