July brings a realization that half of the year is gone, but also allows us to highlight one of CRHC’s most important events – Safety Net Clinic Week. We’ll be celebrating the uniqueness and undeniable necessity of Rural Health Clinics (RHC), while also highlighting the challenges that require attention.
Throughout the weeks coming up to the event, you’ll be seeing lots of correspondence with stories, data, and supporting evidence of why RHCs are an important part of the Safety Net and gain a greater understanding of their focus on the health of the underserved. This year marks the fifth year of celebrating Safety Net Clinic Week and the Governor of Colorado will be giving his endorsement through a Proclamation. With all of the information to come, first we want everyone to be prepared knowing a clear definition of a safety net clinic.
The term is broad and used among many groups. We define a safety net clinic as a healthcare facility that serves a population who would otherwise go without care. Clinics exist to provide primary care, chronic illness therapies, prevention, wellness, and education. Safety net clinics are ingrained in their communities and are sometimes the sole trusted source for healthcare. Speaking of rural communities, the providers are not only the area’s healthcare expert, but also their neighbor.
In rural areas across Colorado, 51 RHCs are an important part of the safety net and exist to provide care in communities. It must be noted that an RHC is a unique classification within the safety net. Many believe they are synonymous with any clinic located in a rural area, a community health center or federally qualified health center, or a private practice. Although many of the same services are provided, there are distinct differences.
Unlike other classifications of clinics, an RHC is specially certified by the federal government. This, however, does not mean that they receive additional funding. On the contrary, RHCs struggle to maintain financial sustainability. Although the Affordable Care Act put in many funding mechanisms to help other types of safety net facilities, RHCs were omitted. And since they often act as the community’s only primary care provider, advocacy for their continued existence is imperative. The populations they serve are often publicly insured or without coverage, meaning that their reimbursement is lower making it more and more difficult to meet the challenges of new regulation and healthcare trends.
Through all the challenges and adversity created by funding variables, RHCs still thrive and provide quality care to their patients and fellow residents. Our advocacy through Safety Net Clinic Week will not solely be focused on the hardships RHCs face, but instead, we’ll be highlighting the positive impact they make and the dedication of the individuals that comprise the RHC system. Keep up your awareness for our coming correspondence through our members-only emails, news releases, Twitter and Facebook feeds. Together, our voices can create a lasting future for Colorado’s healthcare safety net.
Please join us in the Safety Net Clinic Week events on August 18th through August 22nd