Zufall Health event highlights significance of community health centers — and concern about funding

Zufall Health celebrated National Health Center Week with two lively and family-friendly health events in Hackettstown and Franklin — festivities that included back-to-school gear for kids in underserved families and educational information on health care for their caregivers.

The event showed the importance of community health care centers. It also showed the concern.

The approximately 1,500 CHCs across the country are navigating the financial uncertainty of a federal funding extension that is set to expire Sept. 30. Unless Congress acts quickly to authorize another extension, CHCs will suffer a 70% cut in federal funding, a devastating possibility given that CHCs already operate with limited resources and require sustained and reliable funding to provide essential services and divert people from emergency care.

Nationally, 90% of CHC patients are low-income, 19% are uninsured and many are members of key vulnerable populations such as people experiencing homelessness, agricultural workers, seniors, public housing residents and military veterans. CHCs save the U.S. health care system an estimated $24 billion annually and generate about $85 million in local economic activity.

Zufall Health provides primary, dental and nonclinical supportive services to more than 31 million patients, or about 1 in 11 people in the U.S.

Zufall Health CEO Frances Palm is concerned.

About Zufall Health

Zufall Health is an award-winning community health center that has been providing high-quality, affordable medical, dental, and behavioral health services to low-income, uninsured and underserved people since 1990. Nearly 45,000 patients are served at its headquarters site in Dover, as well as in Bridgewater, Flemington, Franklin Township, Hackettstown, Morristown, Newton, Plainsboro, Somerville and West Orange.

“The enthusiastic community response to National Health Center Week underscores our vital role in the health care system,” she said. “That is, Zufall Health provides anyone, regardless of their circumstances or ability to pay, with access to high-quality, affordable, culturally responsive health services that address their complete health needs.”

President Joe Biden acknowledged National Health Center Week — and the centers’ importance.

“Time and again, evidence reveals that health centers make a powerful difference in the communities they serve,” he said. “These investments are a matter of human dignity and fairness. When we fail to invest in the health outcomes of some communities, we all suffer. But when we take the necessary actions to improve care in every ZIP code, we are all better for it.”

The question is: How much will he push to fund them?

Zufall’s National Health Center Week events were generously underwritten by Aetna, BD, Benco Dental, Delta Dental of New Jersey, Fingerpaint, Fulton Bank, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, United Healthcare and Valley Bank.