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Florida's Community Health Centers Worry About Federal Funding

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Anxiety is high among leaders at community health centers after Congress failed to meet a deadline to reauthorize their funding over the weekend.

Leaders at the nearly 50 centers in Florida that depend on the funding are worried, as these primary care facilities serve over one million patients annually across the state.

If the money is not re-authorized by December 31, health centers with funding cycles that begin in January would start the year with nothing from the federal government.

Andy Behrman, CEO of the Florida Association of Community Health Centers, says that could force eight centers to close initially, which could impact thousands of patients, many who are uninsured.

Behrman says local centers are trying to plan to see whether they can stay afloat without federal dollars.

"So it's still a little bit premature for anybody to shut the door, but it's something that has to be discussed," he said.

Florida’s community health centers range in size, with larger locations serving as many as 70,000 patients, and small, rural centers serving more like 4,000 patients.

Behrman says it’s these smaller centers he’s most concerned about as they wait for Congress to act.

"To a small center, the federal dollars that they get may be a much larger component of their operating budget," he said.

Behrman says he's optimistic lawmakers will take up the issue this year, it's just unclear when. 

Stephanie Colombini joined WUSF Public Media in December 2016 as Producer of Florida Matters, WUSF’s public affairs show. She’s also a reporter for WUSF’s Health News Florida project.