Pub. 7 2023 Issue 2

Utah’s Community Health Centers and Family Physicians By Sarah Woolsey, MD, MPH, FAAFP, Medical Director, Association for Utah Community Health (AUCH) and Jenifer Lloyd, JD, Deputy Director, AUCH Utah is home to 14 community health centers, operating 60 clinics in urban and rural communities to provide care to more than 166,000 people annually. Utah health centers foster trusting relationships with their patients and provide medical staff with the support they need to deliver the right care for patients. Medical doctors (most are family physicians) and advanced practice providers are the leads of healthcare teams where everyone works together to ensure the best patient care. Utah family physicians lead and practice across the state in these unique independent practices. Health Centers: Caring Since 1965 In 1965, the nation’s first community health centers were launched as a small demonstration program by President Johnson’s Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO). Dr. H. Jack Geiger and Dr. Count D. Gibson had roots in both the civil rights movement and the War on Poverty and wanted to provide healthcare that could transform underserved communities. The first “Neighborhood Health Centers” were established in Columbia Point in Dorchester, MA, an inner city, underserved community, and in Mound Bayou, MS, an impoverished rural community. These two centers provided care that was unconventional at the time by focusing on patients’ social drivers of health in addition to providing healthcare services. This demonstration program became today’s Health Center Program, which now serves over 30 million patients annually through 1,370 health center organizations. What is a Community Health Center? Health centers are community-based organizations that deliver high-quality primary health care services. Designed to be a true “Medical Home,” health centers provide access to pharmacy, mental health, substance use disorder (SUD) and oral health services in addition to primary care. You will find these clinics in areas where economic, geographic or cultural barriers have limited access to affordable healthcare services. Health centers care for the nation’s most vulnerable individuals and families, including people experiencing homelessness, agricultural workers, residents of public housing and the nation’s veterans. As a family doctor, you work with a team staffed and dedicated to the whole person. How Do They Work? Health centers overcome barriers to care by focusing on their community. Each health center has a Board of Directors with patient majorities, ensuring that community voices are heard and health centers remain responsive to local needs. Family physicians working in health centers are guaranteed variety in their scope of practice as each community has different needs. Some are full-spectrum with hospital and office-based practices; others are mobile, working in street medicine practices. Health centers can be large or small. In Utah, they are all private or public non-profits. Health centers receive federal grant funding from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to support the care they provide for low-income uninsured patients, but most of their operating funds come from patient revenues, including Medicaid, Medicare, private Dr. H. Jack Geiger 27 |