Clinics Pursue Answer to Growing Need

With rising health care costs and other cutbacks nationwide, the number of people seeking health care at community health centers is likely to continue to increase while funding for the clinics which serve them may not.

Greater Meridian Health Clinic CEO, Wilbert Jones, said the local clinic is affected.

"We have grown from 5 to 7 years ago from around 30 to 40,000 patient visits, to almost 62,000 medical visits," said Jones. "And overall, over 100,000 patient contacts annually. Unfortunately, we have not received any increase in our federal dollars, over the last five years, significant increase to meet the demands."

Jones said there has been an increase in overtime hours and commitment put in by staffers. He says this is what has helped Greater Meridian's clinics maintain their quality of care.

State Sen. Terry Burton, who is the vice-chairman of the Public Health Committee, says right now all that state-supported agencies can do is maintain their current services. In fact, he says just to maintain the current level of services, despite rising costs, state supported agencies are being asked to submit budgets to the legislature for the next session that are 5% less than what they did last year.

Jones recently returned from testifying before a congressional committee about this overall issue.

However, according to officials with the National Association for Community Health Centers, when it comes to additional funding, it will likely be sometime later next year when Congress takes action.

Greater Meridian Health Clinic serves not only the uninsured, but the under-insured, as well as people who have health insurance. It has clinics in five Mississippi counties and also serves patients from west Alabama.


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