This week we celebrate National Health Center Week, a time to acknowledge the nation’s 1,400 community health centers, which serve 28 million patients at 8,000 sites. Minnesota’s and Wisconsin’s 34 centers care for 500,000 people, many of whom are publicly insured, underinsured, or uninsured.
Your local community health center, the Lake Superior Community Health Center, proudly serves more than 10,000 patients at clinic sites in Duluth (on Grand Avenue) and Superior (at Tower Avenue and 34th Street). The Lake Superior Community Health Center offers primary medical, dental, behavioral health, health insurance navigation, and substance abuse services.
Community health centers are referred to as the nation’s safety net because we serve the underserved. But we are so much more. We are innovators in providing integrated care. This means you may find a Lake Superior Community Health Center behavioral health clinician helping a patient with extreme dental anxiety or a substance-abuse counselor and medical provider jointly caring for a patient with opioid addiction. The integrated model of care allows us to treat the whole person.
Community health centers forge creative partnerships like the Lake Superior Community Health Center’s “Prescription for Play” program, which uses grants to purchase annual memberships to the Duluth Children’s Museum. Our providers “prescribe” memberships for patients who may benefit from family-centered play.
Community health centers recognize that factors like poverty, discrimination, trauma, and isolation impact health as much as access to quality health care, and so the Lake Superior Community Health Center is launching a trauma-informed training and assessment program. We also are consulting with experts to ensure patients who identify as LGBTQ are provided with inclusive and responsive care.
Community health center providers stay abreast of best practices to help patients reduce the negative impacts of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and depression. In fact, the National Association of Community Health Centers found that community health centers performed better on ambulatory quality measures like diabetes management and hypertension control than private-practice groups, despite treating patients that are more medically complex.
The national association also found that community health centers annually save our nation $24 billion in health care costs. To support this incredible work, community health centers receive federal grant funding, and the Lake Superior Community Health Center’s federal grant comprises approximately 18 percent of our annual revenue and support.
In September, however, the majority of that grant funding will sunset — so we encourage you to join us in asking Congress to continue to recognize the benefits community health centers have provided over the past five decades by passing a long-term spending bill that would secure our viability.
The theme for National Health Center Week this year is “rooted in community,” which aptly describes Lake Superior Community Health Center. Since 1972, we have been growing and expanding to meet community needs. We proudly partner with other community health centers through our state associations and through the Breakwater Network. We also partner with community members, including St. Luke’s, Essentia Health, Generations Health Care, the Human Development Center, the American Cancer Society, the Ordean Foundation, the cities of Duluth and Superior, the Superior Police Department, the Wisconsin and Minnesota Departments of Health, the Head of the Lakes United Way, our schools, and county public health departments.
To thank our patients, partners, and our community, we’re hosting a block party Thursday from 5-7 p.m. at the Duluth clinic site at 4325 Grand Ave. Join us for live music, food, a pop-up produce stand offered by Second Harvest Food Bank, a yard-sale table, games, activities, and more. At the event you can learn more about the Lake Superior Community Health Center and make an appointment.
We’re proud to have been this community’s community health center for nearly 50 years, and we look forward to meeting the community’s needs for years to come.
Dayle Patterson is CEO of the Lake Superior Community Health Center in Superior and West Duluth.