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Community Health Centers: the heart of our story

Health centers offer a safety net for the community's most vulnerable residents while providing a quality of care equal to or better than national standards. They are federally supported non-profit or public corporations that offer comprehensive primary and preventive healthcare and enabling services to their communities. Health centers must be located in medically underserved communities and not restrict their services based on financial or insurance status. CHCs are also unique in that they are governed by a board of directors made up mostly (at least 51%) by patients/consumers. Health centers emerged from the Civil Rights activism of the 1960s and 1970s and were initially federally funded as part of the War on Poverty.

Uniquely positioned to serve their communities

Born of the civil rights movement as “community centers," FQHCs are uniquely positioned to provide accessible and culturally competent care to special populations. In addition to providing primary health care, community health centers provide patient support including: case management services; patient assistance to gain financial support for health and social services; referrals to other providers, including substance abuse and mental health services; services that enable patients to access health center services such as outreach, transportation and language interpretation; and education regarding the availability and appropriate use of the community's health services.

Born of the health centers themselves!

Northwest Regional Primary Care Association (NWRPCA) was established in 1983 by a collaborative effort of community health centers to provide a wide range of services, including training, onsite technical assistance, community development and clinical coordination to a small number of health centers in the Northwest.

The need continues

In 2015, Northwest community health centers in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington provided care to over 1.6 million individuals. Of these individuals, 90 percent were at or below 200 percent of the poverty level. CHCs provide primary care to all, regardless of ability to pay, and must, by definition, offer a sliding scale of fee discounts to accommodate all. Community health centers serve some of our most vulnerable populations. More than 115,000 individuals served in 2012 identified themselves as homeless; 24,328 reported being veterans; and 5,202 lived in public housing. 28 percent of those served were children under the age of 18, and 47 percent identified as racial or ethnic minorities.

A rich history of growth and change

1982  The power of collaboration - Northwest health centers jointly protest the reassignment of a respected HRSA migrant health coordinator to Texas. The reassignment is overturned, and the CHCs recognize their collective power.

1983  A voice for the Northwest - Those same health centers establish NWRPCA as a voice for the Northwest in our nation’s capital. They pool resources through the new PCA for more robust hiring potential. Idaho Primary Care Association is also established.

1985  Physician recruitment - NWRPCA recruitment efforts begin, focusing on primary care physicians answering the call to “practice where it’s nearly perfect.”

1983 – 1989  Federal funding increases - NWRPCA regional needs assessment leads to increase in areas designated “health professional shortage” (HPSA) and “medically underserved” (MUA and MUP), bringing additional federal funding for Northwest health centers.

1986  Primary Care Conferences begin - NWRPCA assumes responsibility for Spring and Fall Conferences, formerly produced in the Northwest by HRSA.

1989  Counting the NW farmworkers -  NWRPCA counts the Migrant and Seasonal Farmworkers (MSFW) in Idaho, Oregon and Washington to help compile the Migrant Health Atlas for the Office of Migrant Health, refuting the unfounded notion that MSFWs do not have a significant presence in the Northwest.

1986 – 1993 Direct service programs - NWRPCA coordinates direct service delivery programs such as Migrant Cancer Screening and Prevention and local AIDS research.

1990 Three new state PCAs - NWRPCA applies for and receives federal funding to create state PCAs for Alaska, Oregon and Washington.

1991 A forum for the Western Migrant Stream - The first Western Migrant Stream Forum is produced by NWRPCA, making the PCA a convener of three major conferences each year.

1991 - 1992 Addressing the malpractice insurance crisis - The 5 Region X PCAs work together to push forward the Federal Assisted Health Clinics Legal Protection Act, ending the malpractice insurance crisis for health centers.

1993 Region X Clinical Network - NWRPCA hires a clinical staff member to develop services for clinicians, leading to the Region X Clinical Network and the Clinical Directors Notebook. Clinicians begin serving on the NWRPCA board of directors. 

1993 – 1996 Measuring quality -  NWRPCA’s Clinical Measures Pilot collects data to measure the quality of care delivered in Region X health centers. PCA services to clinicians expand.

1997 Partnership with CHAMPS - Community Health Association of Mountain/Plains States (CHAMPS) becomes a partner with NWRPCA in producing the annual Fall Primary Care Conference.

1999 Serving the west coast migrants - NWRPCA convenes the “Stream Team” to coordinate efforts within HRSA Regions X and IX on behalf of migrant and seasonal farmworkers along the west coast.

2000 Health Disparities focus - NWRPCA assumes coordination of the HRSA Health Disparities Collaboratives until it is shifted to state PCAs in 2007.

2000 – 2004 Clinician support and retention - NWRPCA coordinates the BPHC/NHSC-sponsored PEPS (Provider Enrichment Program) to support and retain clinicians new to Region X health centers.

2001 - 2008 CHCs nearly double in number - Number of CHCs in the Northwest increases 93%

2002 Workforce challenges - A regional workforce summit involving all five of the Northwest PCAs creates a five-point strategy to address the region’s ongoing primary care workforce challenges.

2003 Regional recruitment efforts - Along with the PCAs of Region VIII, the five PCAs of the Northwest successfully petition HRSA to provide supplemental funding for workforce development, leading to a successful regional recruitment collaborative.

2003  Pesticide poisoning issue - The Pesticides Action Network of North America Pesticides Database is launched as a partnership with NWRPCA, providing clinicians an online tool to diagnose and treat pesticide poisoning. The database remains active today: http://www.pesticideinfo.org.

2008 Leadership training formalized - Northwest Community Health Leadership Institute is launched.

2009  Direct physician recruitment - The regional recruitment collaborative closes and NWRPCA launches its own direct recruitment program. 

2009  Support from members - NWRPCA accepts its first for-profit corporate member.

2012 Community Health Improvement program - NWRPCA reconfigures its Migrant Health program into Community Health Improvement when Migrant Health Coordinator positions are de-funded. 

2013 Western Forum for Migrant & Community Health - The “Western Migrant Stream Forum” becomes the “Western Forum for Migrant and Community Health” as NWRPCA celebrates its 30th anniversary and broadens its community health focus.

2014 Steady growthNWRPCA welcomes its 100th member: The American Cancer Society.
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