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March 5, 2009

Velázquez Works to Expand Community Health Centers Program

Washington, DC – Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) joined colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives to introduce legislation yesterday that would expand access to quality health care for New York City’s medically-underserved neighborhoods.  The “Access for All America Act of 2009” would substantially increase support for the Community Health Centers program, ensuring that millions more will have a chance for a brighter, healthier future.

“With escalating costs making health care harder to afford, community health centers are a valuable resource for many hard-working families in need of primary medical care, dental coverage, and mental health counseling,” said Velázquez.  “These centers open their doors to everyone, ensuring no person seeking basic medical treatment is ever turned away.”

The new legislation would quadruple the Community Health Center funding authorization to more than $8 billion, providing 60 million Americans living in medically-underserved areas with access to affordable medical care and low cost prescription drugs.  New Yorkers would greatly benefit from this expansion.  With more than 1.1 million in the state already using the state’s 50 community health centers, the additional funding would increase the services offered and the number of patients reached.  These centers play a central role in local economies, providing approximately 12,000 jobs for physicians, nurses, technicians, and other medical professionals in the State.

“Investing in community health centers not only ensures a healthier population, but also creates the jobs that are vital to an economic recovery.  This bill provides a long term investment towards stabilizing and growing our City’s economy,” said Velázquez.

With the rising expense of medical treatment, community health centers save New Yorkers substantial funds by reducing unnecessary medical expenses and cutting down the need for emergency room visits and hospitalizations.  New York City saves $770 million in direct health costs every year because of community health centers, and it is estimated that the savings could exceed $1.6 billion by 2015.  By promoting normal childhood development and creating a healthy workforce – medical costs will stay down for years to come.

“Every year, countless employees are forced to miss work because of illness or to look after loved ones who are sick.  This hurts both workers and businesses through lost wages and diminished production.  By providing the City’s workforce with the care they need, community health centers allow New Yorkers to stay on the job and remain productive,” said Velázquez.

President Obama has placed a priority on strengthening community health centers.  Earlier this week, the Administration announced that five New York City community health centers will receive $5.9 million in funding from the Economic Recovery Plan.  The resources are being dispersed by the Department of Health and Human Services, and are part of $155 million allocated for similar programs across the country. 

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