Yankton, SD—U.S. Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) today continued his efforts to support a plan to develop a community health center in Yankton County. Johnson and area health care leaders discussed the progress that has been made on the potential health center, which would provide essential care to uninsured and underserved individuals in the county.
“I applaud the collaborative work being done by the folks here to meet the health care needs of this community,” Johnson said. “Despite the progress we have made, significant barriers remain that limit access to quality health care for thousands of South Dakotans. At community health centers across our state, patients have access to quality care, regardless of their ability to pay.”
Johnson was joined at the event by Tom Stanage, Lewis & Clark Behavioral Health Services; Pam Rezac, Yankton Avera Sacred Heart Hospital; Chuck Aman, Yankton Medical Clinic and Mary Metz, Elk Point Community Health Clinic.
Last year, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) granted the State of South Dakota’s request to classify Yankton County as a Medically Underserved Population, the first step in establishing the center. Health care leaders are now working on securing a Health Center Planning Grant from HRSA, the next step in the process. Johnson wrote a letter of support for the grant, which would be a significant boost for the project.
Health care reform, which was signed into law one year ago today, invested substantially in funding for CHCs to meet the increased demand for services. In addition to increasing levels in regular appropriations, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act established a Community Health Center Fund and appropriates a total of $11 billion over the five-year period FY2011 through FY2015 to the fund.
“I am pleased the new health law makes a significant investment in health centers,” Johnson said. “These funds will allow health centers to expand their capacity, enhance their services, expand and improve existing facilities and construct new sites. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I recognize the important role of providing this funding and how vital this investment is.”
Community Health Centers (CHC) play an important role in South Dakota with seven that provide care at 37 service sites. More than 59,000 patients used CHCs in 2009, 65 percent of whom were under 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level.