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Tepper: Community Health Centers improve access to care for underserved Arizonans


He visited a primary care doctor for the first time in his adult life — She received routine medical care, along with treatment for two behavioral health condition: anxiety and depression.

These are among the thousands of Arizonans whose lives have been positively impacted by Community Health Centers.

Terros Health stands with nearly two dozen providers in Arizona and 14,000 providers in the U.S. celebrating improved access to care for underserved and uninsured populations during National Community Health Center Week Aug. 7-13. These underserved and uninsured populations include homeless persons, residents of public housing, migrant and seasonal farm workers, veterans, school-aged children and other special populations.

Community Health Centers are the backbone of the nation’s primary care system. Thanks to these centers, nearly 29 million people can get physical exams, flu shots and other routine care. They can be treated for chronic behavioral health conditions too. This was the case even at the height of COVID-19.

At Terros Health, we know the importance of making health care accessible to more people but also caring for the whole person. Our company was among the first in Arizona to introduce a groundbreaking integrated model of care to provide primary care, mental health, substance use treatment and wellness services under one roof.

Such care helps us deliver on our purpose of inspiring change for life for our patients, and it also creates safe and healthy communities.

Through our Community Health Centers, our team also identifies social determinants of health that can impact individual well-being. Through our Federally Qualified Health Centers, we connect patients to food, housing, transportation, employment and other resources.

Another benefit of Community Health Centers: they employ the latest technologies, including the Health Information Exchange, which enables providers, clinicians and other members of the health care system to share electronic medical records to coordinate patient care.

And importantly, our Community Health Centers are governed by a nonprofit board of directors — more than half of whom are patients. This gives an often-overlooked population a voice in their care.

A new report released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers some good news: the national uninsured rate reached 8% in early 2022. That is the lowest percentage of uninsured individuals in our nation’s history (At last count, Arizona’s uninsured rate was 10.8%).

Community Health Centers help fill in the gaps, removing the cost, distance and other barriers to quality health care for the underserved. Such centers also strengthen the fabric of our communities and are generating substantial savings — about $24 billion per year — to America’s health care system.

To find a Community Health Center, visit the Arizona Alliance for Community Health Centers at aachc.org/communityhealthcenters/ or terroshealth.org.

About the author

Dr. Karen Hoffman Tepper is president and CEO of Terros Health, a health care company.