#ValueCHCs: Why Community Health Centers Matter in a Global Pandemic

Today marks the beginning of the 2020 National Health Center Week. During this time, we celebrate the hard work of more than 235,000 healthcare workers at 12,000 clinics across the country. Since their beginning in the 1960s, community health centers have provided quality health care to underserved populations in both urban and rural settings. Since then, the community health center movement has continued to grow. In fact, in 2019, Kansas health centers reported more than 1 million visits. Nationally, health centers serve more than 28 million Americans, including 1 in 3 living in poverty, and 1 in 5 children.

In addition to the growth of this movement nationally, health centers have consistently led the way in addressing disparities in health outcomes and public health crises. Examples of this include the integral role of health centers in battling HIV/AIDS and, more recently, the Opioid Epidemic.

Today, however, our communities face a new challenge. As our nation continues to grapple with COVID-19, it is clear that the work of community health centers is more important now than ever before. In addition to the risk of contracting the virus, our communities are experiencing unemployment, food and housing insecurity at historic levels. While many of these issues are not new, they are intensified by COVID-19.

For Vibrant Health, these realities have forced us to reimagine how we serve our community—resulting in creative solutions to some of the new and changing needs that we are seeing among our patients. We are proud to be expanding our telehealth services, hosting regular drive-thru food drives, lowering the cost of our behavioral health services, and including items like hand sanitizer and reusable masks in our back-to-school giveaways.

Vibrant Health food drive in partnership with El Centro

Additionally, we recognized early in the pandemic that COVID-19 testing was largely inaccessible for many Wyandotte County residents. This lack of access would intensify many of the broader health disparities that we are seeing across the nation. We are proud to say that we have hosted more than 40 pop-up COVID-19 testing event at churches, community centers, and businesses in neighborhoods across the county. Through these events, we have partnered with a team of community leaders and organizers to serve those populations that have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, including the African American, Latinx, and refugee communities. Since we began these efforts five months ago, we have provided free tests to more than 2,400 community members and acted as a link to critical community services for those impacted by COVID-19.

Pop-Up COVID-19 testing event

While this year has proven to be extraordinarily challenging, we are constantly inspired by the commitment and perseverance of our staff, community partners and neighbors in the community. Looking forward, we are filled with hope, and we are honored to continue serving this community, regardless of what lies ahead.