Health

Ga. Community Health Centers Concerned Over Missed Funding Deadline

R.B. Tucker is CEO of South Central Primary Care Center, a nonprofit organization that operates health clinics across five counties in South Georgia.
R.B. Tucker is CEO of South Central Primary Care Center, a nonprofit organization that operates health clinics across five counties in South Georgia.
Credit Elly Yu / WABE

Georgia community health advocates are raising concerns after Congress recently missed a deadline to renew billions of dollars of funding for community health centers. The funding, which provides federal grants to health centers, expired on Sept. 30, the end of this fiscal year.

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That funding includes about $84 million for community health centers in Georgia, said Duane Kavka, executive director of the Georgia Association of Primary Health Care.

Kavka said the direct impact of won’t be felt at community health centers until January, when some grant cycles begin for the next fiscal year, but said it’s caused a level of uncertainty for centers.

“It allows a dark cloud to be hanging over our head,” he said.

Carole Maddux, the executive director of the Good Samaritan Health & Wellness Center in Jasper, Ga., said it’s affected her ability to plan for the center, which has been expanding.

“For instance, I’ve got several openings on my staff right now that I’m trying to fill, and in the back of mind there’s always this uncertainty because the funding hasn’t been renewed yet,” Maddux said.

There are 34 community health center organizations in Georgia with more than 200 clinics across the state, Kavka said. They primarily serve low-income and uninsured patients, he said.

“We’re the safety net, for sure, in that we see the people that nobody else wants to see,” said R.B. Tucker, CEO of South Central Primary Care Center which operates eight clinics across five counties in South Georgia.

Tucker said the organization serves about 11,000 people a year, and about 40 percent are uninsured. He’s been watching the funding issue in Congress.

“Even though it’s scary, I’m hoping for the best,” he said.

Legislation to renew the funding is pending in Congress, and several Georgia community health advocates went to D.C. Tuesday to lobby for the issue.