As part of CHCB’s 2021 Annual Meeting, Sen. Bernie Sanders honored our 50th Anniversary by contributing a statement in the Congressional Record. We recently received a framed plaque of this statement, which follows:
“Mr. SANDERS. Mr. President, I rise today to recognize the Community Health Centers of Burlington for 50 years of extraordinary service. Today, the Community Health Centers of Burlington—CHCB—is the second largest federally qualified health center—FQHC—in Vermont, serving over 30,000 patients at eight locations. Fifty years ago, when they opened their doors in 1971 as the People’s Free Clinic in a small storefront in Burlington’s Old North End, the center was run by volunteers and served just 50 patients each week. And while they have grown tremendously since those early days, CHCB has maintained a commitment to what the founders of the clinic at the time described as ‘‘a new kind of health care,’’ rooted in the understanding that people from all walks of life deserves high quality, affordable healthcare.
In 1989, CHCB was designated as a federal Healthcare for the Homeless site and, in 1993, officially became an FQHC. Becoming an FQHC meant CHCB was able to access important grants from the Federal Government, improvement reimbursement rate for care, and offer a sliding fee scale, so no one would be turned away because they could not afford the care they needed. But let me be clear: Health centers like CHCB are not exclusively for those who have nowhere else to go. For many people living in the Burlington area and across Vermont, community health centers like CHCB are the provider of choice because they provide timely access to high-quality care in community-centered clinics. In fact, today, approximately one-third of all CHCB patients are covered by private health insurance. Another reason that FQHCs are so popular and used by so many people in Vermont and across the country is that they also offer dental care. CHCB first added dental services into its main site in 2004, and today, 7000 patients receive dental care at one of three CHCB locations. Further, in addition to offering primary care and oral healthcare, FQHCs also offer mental
healthcare and substance use disorder treatment, as well as low-cost prescription drugs. It is clear why nearly one-in-three Vermonters rely on FQHCs like CHCB for their care.
In 2012, the Community Health Centers of Burlington was able to utilize funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to renovate its main location, known as the Riverside
Health Center, allowing for updated patient care rooms; laboratory space; dental operatories; and integrated psychiatry, counseling, and substance use disorder treatment. Understanding
that many Vermonters outside of the Burlington area struggled to access affordable care, CHCB established a rural practice in the Champlain Islands. The health center also expanded into
Winooski in 2017, in partnership with Winooski Family Health. But CHCB’s expansion is not simply about growing the number of locations. They have also continued to expand the services
offered, including ensuring they can offer culturally competent care to the growing New American community. Today, CHCB offers translation services to over 45 languages at their sites, making care not just affordable but understandable to all who need it.
The Community Health Centers of Burlington is an excellent example of why federally qualified health centers are so important. To my mind, there is no question that healthcare is a human right and health centers like CHCB play an enormously important role in making sure that no one is denied care because of their income. That is why I have continually fought to protect and expand Federal funding for community health centers throughout my time in Congress. I am proud that during the negotiations of the Affordable Care Act, I was successful in securing mandatory funding for these health centers, knowing that they would be better served by knowing that they could rely on funding for the Federal Government for years to come. I have continued to fight for funding for FHQCs during the response to the COVID–19 pandemic, knowing how critical they are to keeping patients healthy and connected to their communities during these extremely challenging times. I am grateful to all of my colleagues here in the Senate and in the House of Representatives who have joined me in this effort throughout the years.
To the staff of CHCB, I want to say that I know that your hard work and dedication is at the heart of CHCB’s success. I know it is not always easy to work in primary care, and I am grateful for your efforts. And to the patients who rely on CHCB each year, know that I am glad you have entrusted your care to them and that I will do everything in my power to ensure they are there to care for you for decades to come. And as you take time to celebrate your many successes over the past 50 years, I know you are also looking toward the opportunities and challenges that lay ahead for the future. I look forward to continuing to work with you to tackle the challenges, like further expanding access and care, reducing costs, and recruiting and retaining a talented workforce dedicated to
primary care. I will also stand with you as you find new opportunities for success and growth. While the issues we face are enormous, I know that community health centers like CHCB are a key to solving them.
I sincerely congratulate the entire Community Health Centers of Burlington family on this momentous occasion and wish you another 50 years of delivering compassionate, professional,
and innovative healthcare services to your fellow Vermonters.”