The Federally Qualified Health Centers Program
The U.S. Health Resources & Services Administrations’ Bureau of Primary Health Care administers the $2.2 billion program for Federally Qualified Health Centers, including community, migrant, homeless and school-based, for the purpose of addressing the health care needs of our nation’s underserved populations.
Federally Qualified Health Centers are characterized by five essential elements that differentiate them from other health facilities and providers:
They must be located in or serve a high need community, i.e. “medically underserved areas” or “medically underserved populations”.
They must provide comprehensive primary care services as well as supportive services such as translation and transportation services that promote access to health care.
Their services must be available to all residents of their service areas, with fees adjusted upon patients’ ability to pay.
They must be governed by a community board with a majority of members health center patients.
Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) serve 18 million people in both rural and urban settings at over 7,000 sites.
Of those served over 90% are below 200% poverty and approximately 67% are racial & ethnic minorities.
FQHCs have a number of health professionals including:
Primary Care Physicians & Physician Assistants
Nurses & Nurse Practitioners
Dentists & Dental Hygienists
Behavioral Health Specialists including psychiatrists, social workers, counselors and psychologists
According to the National Association of Community Health Centers (2008), the top 6 (or primary) diagnoses reported by FQHCs include:
Depression & Other Mood Disorders
Mental Health/Substance Abuse
Eliminating health disparities is a top priority for FQHCs including in behavioral health treatment and outcomes by removing common barriers to care and closely coordinating behavioral health and primary care services.
The FQHCs are focusing on depression by forming “collaboratives” that is FQHCs working together to address depression in their patients & these initiatives are funded by the Bureau of Primary Health Care (BPHC).
The FQHCs are also addressing chronic illnesses and depression associated with chronic illnesses by forming “collaboratives” that are funded by BPHC.
Mental Health Expansion Grants are available from the BPHC for FQHCs interested in establishing or expanding mental and behavioral health services.