Dark as the outlook seems to be in these early weeks of the coronavirus crisis in Florida, there is a glimmer of good news for millions of residents who will want and need access to health care in this prolonged era.
Every Florida county has at least one federally qualified Community Health Center, and the CHC statewide network is working with the Governor, the state Emergency Operations Center, and the Department of Health to meet the needs of each community.
Fortunately, the CHCs geographic footprint is a good fit for the growing statewide need for services related to the virus outbreak.
However, here’s a downside that is readily fixable: Community Health Centers can only serve as many people as their personal protection equipment (PPE) and testing kits allow. And right now, that limited supply is dwindling fast and making their reasonable needs a priority can help state officials promptly and properly meet this crisis more effectively.
That’s why it’s vitally important that Gov. Ron DeSantis and all Florida leaders with the power to do something about this must make CHCs a priority when they advise Floridians about their health care options — and as they divvy up precious state resources.
DeSantis doesn’t have to go too far out of the way to reinforce his perspective about the value of CHCs as there are two located close to the Governor’s Mansion in Tallahassee: Neighborhood Medical Center and Bond Community Health Center.
Since the COVID-19 crisis began, Florida has set up a network of health care organizations and facilities to test, diagnose, and treat those who have been affected.
Long-serving Community Health Centers are a crucial part of this network, particularly important because the CHCs and related facilities — including mobile care units — have a presence in all 67 counties. All Florida Community Health Centers are engaged in the fight against this virus, and the Governor has highlighted them amid his daily press briefings.
In these still-early days of fighting this ongoing threat, much of the focus has been on hospitals and nursing homes — understandably so — and as a result it would be easy to overlook the crucial role Community Health Centers provide in delivering local health care, especially to those who can’t afford other options.
Familiar with providing comprehensive primary and preventive health care services to underserved communities, the CHCs have now partnered with DOH to use their services to help speed up the delivery of needed care to vulnerable Floridians — including 29 drive-through clinics to help with the growing demand.
They are there where needed, and they’re helping to do the job that all of Florida needs done right now. But just like the hospitals and nursing homes, CHCs are running desperately low on essential supplies like face masks and gloves.
Everyone in Florida with an interest in keeping our loved ones and neighbors safe from the new coronavirus has a stake in making sure CHCs don’t get lost in the shuffle when resources finally do become available.
With their widespread local reach, and their proven track record of excellent and dedicated work, Community Health Centers have the infrastructure necessary to be an important asset in this fight. By providing them with the tools they need, state leadership can take advantage of this resource and provide a more efficient response to this ever-growing crisis.