Institute Board Members Join NACHC to Express Importance of Community Health Centers with Lawmakers on Capitol Hill
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Institute Staff

Institute Board Members Join NACHC to Express Importance of Community Health Centers with Lawmakers on Capitol Hill

April 19, 2017

(From left) Board members Kathleen O’Donnell, Joseph Asubonteng and Jeanne Thelwell.


Earlier this month Institute staff and board members attended the annual National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC), Policy & Issues Forum in Washington, D.C. Every year, health center leaders and public health leaders from around the country gather to discuss the future of healthcare and to share concerns and perspectives with lawmakers on Capitol Hill. The goal is to bring awareness that community health centers offer a constructive solution to helping more people access healthcare – while achieving savings for the nation and to ensure funding under the 330 Grant Program remains at levels not only adequate to maintain operations, but to strengthen health center services into the future. Three of our board members were able to attend the conference this year and shared some highlights of their experience with us. Kathleen O’Donnell, works for the New York Academy of Medicine, Jeanne Thelwell and Joseph Asubonteng are patient representatives.

Kathleen O’Donnell: “This was my first time attending and I learned so much during the conference. Attending the conference enabled me to get to know other Institute board members — Joseph and Jeanne —  better. It was my first time visiting congressional offices. We were there to let legislators know about the importance of Medicaid, and securing full federal funding for community health centers and physician training programs like the Teaching Health Centers program and the National Health Services Corps beyond September’s funding cliff.”

“I also enjoyed hearing about the work of other community health centers around the country. This one center that takes care of the homeless, had a former patient come and give a personal testimonial and it was very powerful. There had never been such a large turnout for this conference. On several occasions, people were spilling out into the hallways during meetings with legislators. It was a great show of force and highlighted the importance of community health centers. It was also quite encouraging that there was a lot of bipartisan support for community health centers.”

Joseph Asubonteng: “This was my fourth time attending the conference. This time was overwhelming because we had so many more people attend than usual. There was so much enthusiasm, I loved the willingness of people to voice their concerns and the cooperation of the congress people. Every legislator we visited was in favor of helping to continue the federal funding of community health centers. They were all aware of the importance of the work being done by community health centers.”

“Every year, I make them [congresspersons] aware that this country that prides itself as the greatest country in the world can take better care of its people. I’m from Ghana, a developing nation, that offers universal health coverage to its people. How come America can’t do that? The reason I go every year is to make them [congresspersons] aware of the importance of community health centers. I’m a teacher and I take four or five days off without being paid, because I want to see that community health centers are able to continue to provide services, especially for people who are most in need of health care.”

Jeanne Thelwell: “I was in the advocacy leadership program, so I had mandatory things to do every session. It was a good opportunity. There were very good seminars on engaging the board and patients in advocacy.”

“I was with Joseph and we were walking from the Longworth House Office to the Russell Senate Office Building and I had to sit down on the way because I had forgotten to take my naproxen (also known as Aleve®). The woman sitting on the bench had some and offered it to me. She then asked what brought us to Washington. I told her we were there with the National Association of Community Health Centers. And she simply said, “Thank You.” I was confused and asked her why she was thanking me. She said, “My mother always credited the community health center in La Grange, IL for saving her life and helping to keep the family together. So, thank you for what you’re doing.” This is a perfect stranger. You never know whose lives community health centers touch.”