Leaders from the country’s community health centers will soon gather in Washington, D.C., to press Congress to keep underserved patients – including ones from rural Minnesota - from falling through the cracks.

On Sept. 30, the Community Health Centers Fund, the lifeblood of the nation’s 1,400 CHCs, including 17 in Minnesota, will expire. There has always been strong bi-partisan support for CHCs because the primary medical, dental and behavioral health care they deliver to 28 million Americans keeps communities healthy and out of the hospital. This approach to health care saves taxpayers billions of dollars by emphasizing upstream, prevention.

While that same bi-partisanship remains, if Congress doesn’t vote to extend funding before it expires, the impact on Minnesotans will be profound. Minnesota has five CHCs located in greater Minnesota where access to primary care services is challenging compared to large metropolitan areas. These five CHCs – including Moorhead’s Community Health Service Inc. – face an uncertain future if Congress does not act.

With this instability, they will restrict services and hours, jeopardizing access to routine visits to manage diabetes and hypertension, critical cancer screening services, pre and post-natal care, dental services, and community outreach events during MNSure’s open enrollment period. Moreover, Minnesotans who are weaning off addictions will lose their care team support.

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Congress must act within the very short term to pass this bill so that CHCs, on which 200,000 Minnesotans throughout the state depend, remain in their communities the day September turns to October.