WASHINGTON – In recent weeks, Congressman Troy Balderson (R-OH) has worked to champion the needs of Ohio’s community health centers (CHCs) as they continue to provide essential care during the COVID-19 outbreak. Working at the local, state, and federal levels, Balderson helped secure key grant funding for Central Ohio’s CHCs to expand COVID-19 testing capabilities and joins a bipartisan group of lawmakers in urging the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to provide CHCs support through a designated fund so they can continue providing care during the pandemic.
“Community health centers play an essential role in Ohio’s health care system, as they provide care to some of our most vulnerable populations while ensuring emergency rooms are able to focus resources on the critically ill and injured,” said Balderson. “As they’ve taken a blow during this pandemic, it’s my role to advocate for our community health centers so Ohioans can continue receiving the care they need – whether related to COVID-19 or other conditions.”
Community health centers servicing constituents of Ohio’s 12th Congressional District received more than $3.4 million in grant funding through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). This funding was made available by legislation Balderson supported.
According to HHS, HRSA-funded health centers will use this funding to expand the range of testing and testing-related activities to best address the needs of their local communities, including: the purchase of personal protective equipment; training for staff, outreach, procurement and administration of tests; laboratory services; notifying identified contacts of infected health center patients of their exposure to COVID-19; and the expansion of walk-up or drive-up testing capabilities.
In addition to helping secure this funding, Balderson and a bipartisan group of more than 150 lawmakers sent a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar requesting funds from the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund (PHSSEF) be set aside for CHCs in the next distribution wave. Money for this fund was made available by the CARES Act and the PPP and Health Care Enhancement Act, which Balderson supported.
This funding supplements other CARES Act-provided appropriations, including $1.32 billion specifically for CHCs to address the pandemic and additional dollars these centers have already received from the Provider Relief Fund. These resources follow the near-immediate injection of $100 million into CHCs on the front lines of the pandemic, provided by phase one of coronavirus relief packages, which Balderson also supported.
Balderson strongly advocated for the CARES Act to include a reauthorization of the Community Health Center Fund, which provides enhanced funding for CHCs and the National Health Service Corps. As it was set to expire, Balderson cosponsored legislation to reauthorize the program through FY 2024.
Since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, many of Ohio’s care providers, including CHCs, have experienced financial hardship due to: a decrease in elective visits that bring in revenue; a decrease in capacity due to workers being furloughed or quarantined after possible COVID-19 exposure; and an increase in overhead expenses related to COVID-19, including the procurement of personal protective equipment such as gowns and masks, additional cleaning, and measures to increase testing capacity.
Balderson has been in regular, close contact with Central Ohio’s CHCs to lend support, guidance, and resources since the outbreak hit the United States. He recently led a virtual roundtable discussion with the Ohio Association of Community Health Centers and continues to look for ways to support these critical care providers.