By Richard Asinof
PROVIDENCE – The R.I. Health Center Association celebrated its 40th anniversary at its annual meeting held on Oct. 15.
At the breakfast meeting, the association recognized the work of numerous colleagues.
Dr. Christine Bender, director of Clinical Dentistry at Blackstone Valley Community Health Care, received the Clinical Leadership Award in recognition of the leadership she provides to the community health centers and providers.
Dr. Jerald Fingerut, medical director of Blackstone Valley Community Health Care, and Dr. L. McTyeire “Mack” Johnston, received the John H. Chafee award for their commitment to strengthening the community health centers.
Dr. Michael Fine, the director of the R.I. Department of Health, received the Dr. John J. Cunningham Distinguished Citizen Award for his commitment to expanding access to primary care in Rhode Island.
“We will look back over the last 40 years, and look forward to the future of providing patient-centered primary care for all Rhode Islanders,” said Jane A. Hayward, president and CEO of the R.I. Health Center Association. “In the ever-changing health care landscape, our community health centers are the providers Rhode Islanders with and without health insurance turn to for high-quality, low-cost medical dental and behavioral health care.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee and Lt. Gov. Elizabeth H. Roberts each briefly addressed the meeting, praising the work of community health centers.
In his keynote address, Craig Kennedy, associate vice president for Federal and State Affairs at the National Association of Community Health Centers, gave a detailed analysis of critical budget decisions that will be before Congress in the coming months related to potential cuts in Medicaid and Medicare spending.
Rhode Island’s nine community health centers have 29 locations across the state. The association released 2011 for eight federally qualified health centers, showing that the centers served 123,000 patients, with more than 520,000 patients. Forty-three percent of patients had health coverage through Medicaid; 7 percent were covered through Medicare; 18 percent were privately insured; and 32 percent were uninsured. In addition, the centers served 43,000 dental patients and 6,400 behavioral health patients, demonstrating a commitment to integrating medical, dental and behavioral health care.