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Senator Shaheen discusses importance of community health centers

BERLIN - Senator Jeanne Shaheen touted the critical role community health centers play in health care and the importance the centers will play in the future of health care during a visit to Berlin.

Thursday afternoon Shaheen stopped at Coos County Family Health Services, in Berlin, to make brief remarks about health care issues and tour the facility. She stressed the role community health centers would play in the future due to changes made by Affordable Care Act.

"[I want to] let everyone throughout the country know what a difference community health centers make," said Shaheen.

The health care act would increase the amount of money spent on community health centers, according to Shaheen.

She said people are getting the bang for their buck with community health centers because of the quality care they provide and a low expense.

Shaheen said the health care reform would improve quality and accessibility of care and address the rising costs of care.

"We need to make sure we have the providers we need not just in urban areas... but in rural parts of the state," said Shaheen.

Tess Kuenning, executive director of the Bi-State Primary Care Association, said the health care act would, nationally, add $11 billion for health centers and $2 billion toward the National Health Service Corps.

Kuenning said there are 16 community health centers across the state that service more than 110,000 patients annually. She added on the national level, health centers provide care for 20 million people.

As the Affordable Health Care Act comes into effect, she said the health centers hope to see the number of patients double throughout the next fi ve years.

Before Shaheen's remarks, Kuenning presented her with awards from the Bi-State Primary Care Association and the National Association of Community Health Centers.

"There hasn't been any time she hasn't supported community health centers," said Kuenning. "We're grateful for all the work she's done."

Shaheen recently announced that $150,000 to help build the new C.C.F.H.S. offi ce in Gorham is attached to 2011 Labor- Health and Human Services Appropriation bill. The bill is headed towards a vote before the full Senate.

Shaheen said she'll continue to support local health centers their needs in the future.

"I just want to thank all of you for the work you do," said Shaheen.