Cuts, layoffs loom at Colorado community health centers as Congress stalls on funding renewal

The centers serve mostly low-income families

John Ingold
The Denver Post
Physician's assistant Ryan Conrad, right, looks inside the ear canal of patient America Montes, 8-months-old, as her mother Nancy Espino, left, holds her during a well-baby checkup at the Denver Health Sam Sandos Westside Health Center Jan. 25, 2018.
Andy Cross/The Denver Post

Community health centers, which serve more than 500,000 mostly low-income patients a year in Colorado, could be forced to make significant cuts unless Congress renews their funding in the coming weeks.

The funding — about $63 million per year in Colorado — lapsed last year around the same time as did money for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which provides insurance to kids from low-income families. But, while Congress renewed funding for CHIP last week as part of a deal to end the federal government shutdown, it provided no solution for community health centers, where many kids on CHIP go to receive care.

That creates what is, for advocates of the centers, the mind-boggling possibility that the nation is about to lurch from one looming health care crisis to another, all because Congress has not acted to reauthorize money for what are widely supported programs. Last year, when the funding for the centers first expired, dozens of members of Congress from both chambers sent bi-partisan letters to leadership urging swift resolution of the issue. Every member of Colorado’s congressional delegation supports extending the centers’ funding, according to the Colorado Community Health Network.

“If these kids don’t have anywhere to get their health care, it’s really pointless to give them health insurance,” U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, a Denver Democrat, said Thursday at a news conference at Denver Health’s Sam Sandos Westside Family Health Center.

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