Community health centers play key role in caring effort

Kay Ramachandran

National Community Health Center Week 2021 will be celebrated in person and virtually this year through Aug, 14. 

Elected officials will join communities across the country in elevating the work community health centers have done while fighting on the front lines of COVID-19 to keep our communities healthy and safe. Their visits and messages will demonstrate that not only is it possible to move beyond the partisan divide over health care, but also to support and agree on a program vital to our communities. 

Health centers provide preventive and primary care services to almost 30 million people and have continued to do so while facing a pandemic. Community health centers provide care to people who disproportionately suffer from chronic disease and lack access to affordable, quality care. While our approach is community based and local, collectively we are the backbone of the nation’s primary care system. Community health centers lower health care costs to the tune of $24 billion a year, reduce rates of chronic diseases and stimulate local economies.

MarillacHealth is the community health center in Mesa County. We provide a range of services onsite — primary care services, prenatal, pediatrics, adults and seniors as well as dentistry and behavioral health services.  Our patients not only get the care they need under one roof, but they also are treated as individuals with dignity and respect. 

Community health centers are not just healers, we are innovators who look beyond medical charts to address the factors of social determinants of health that cause poor health, such as poverty, homelessness, substance use, mental illness, lack of nutrition and unemployment. We are a critical piece of the health care system and collaborate with hospitals; local and state governments; and social, health and business organizations to improve health outcomes for people who are medically vulnerable. We have pivoted to serving our communities through telehealth, drive through COVID-19 testing and still ensuring our patients can access basic necessities like food and housing resources. 

The mission of community health centers remains crucial today because access to basic care remains a challenge in parts of the United States and here in Mesa County. 

We urge Congress to continue long-term funding support for CHCs to continue to serve as health care homes. Long-term and stable funding for community health centers will ensure we can keep our doors open and close the growing access gap for medically vulnerable communities. I am grateful to our Colorado representatives and senators who have shown leadership in supporting and sponsoring legislation that will protect health centers from losing a major part of our funding.

We are committed to a healthier community.

Kay Ramachandran is chief executive officer of MarillacHealth, which provides health care services for the low and middle income, uninsured and underinsured population in Mesa County. For more information, visit