After federal funding for community health centers expired in October 2017, OneWorld joined the Health Center Advocacy Network, the Health Center Association of Nebraska and other health centers nationwide in advocating for funding reauthorization. As Congress delayed action to fix the funding cliff, OneWorld alone faced losing $4,359,626 in federal funds, and more than 84,000 patients in Nebraska were at risk of losing access to comprehensive, affordable health care.
Between October and February, Andrea Skolkin, Chief Executive Officer of OneWorld, traveled to Washington, D.C. several times to meet with Nebraska’s elected officials and express the importance of community health centers in Nebraska. OneWorld also submitted letters to the Omaha World-Herald’s Public Pulse section, published an editorial in the Omaha World-Herald, engaged in the #FixTheCliff dialogue on social media and encouraged staff members to participate in the national #RedAlert4CHCs movement on Feb. 6.
On Feb. 9, more than four months after community health centers’ funding expired, Congress voted to support a bipartisan budget deal that includes two years of funds for community health centers, and President Trump signed the bill. Now, OneWorld and the 1,400 other health centers across the nation have the resources they need to operate until September of 2019.
“We’re elated and relieved,” Skolkin said. “We can now continue to provide health care for the 42,000 people we served last year. We want to extend our thanks to Nebraska’s Sen. Deb Fischer and Rep. Don Bacon for stepping up and speaking out on behalf of community health centers during this period of uncertainty, and we want to thank Rep. Jeff Fortenberry for his vote, too.”
Skolkin said she would also like to thank everyone in the community who has expressed support for OneWorld and community health centers since October.
“We are incredibly grateful for your support,” she said. “Your calls, emails, #RedAlert4CHCs posts and other forms of advocacy helped us send a message about the importance of our work.”
While having two years of guaranteed funding is a relief for health centers nationwide, Skolkin says that she plans to return to Washington, D.C. later this year to advocate for a longer authorization period.
“While we are grateful to have the funds we need for the time being, we also don’t want to have to go through this process again every two years,” Skolkin said. “Health center advocates will now begin pushing for a long-term funding solution for community health centers.”