Florida’s federally qualified health centers have teamed up with the Florida Department of Health to share resources and speed up access to care for low-income residents as new coronavirus cases pop up across the state.
Andrew Behrman, the president and CEO of the Florida Association of Community Health Centers, said this type of partnership with county health departments is common.
“We have done this before,” Behrman said. “H1N1. The Zika virus, so forth. So it was an opportunity for us to make sure that we cover the whole patient population as much as possible."
Florida’s network of Community Health Centers and related facilities – including mobile care units – have a presence in each of Florida’s 67 counties.
The health centers expect to get part of the $8.3 billion approved by Congress to help pay for testing, treatment and prevention efforts. Florida's share will be $27 million but the health centers could get additional funding from the federal government.
"I would assume as a large state, there may be a little bit more funding for us than perhaps in a state that doesn't cover as many patients or have as many health centers, but I don't have any information yet,” Behrman said.
These safety net clinics, which provide primary care and treatment for chronic conditions, treat everyone regardless of ability to pay, but most of their patients are uninsured or on Medicaid.
“The mission of Florida’s Community Health Centers is to provide the very best quality primary care for all of Florida,” Behrman said. “Coordination, planning, and appropriate action are necessary to stop the spread of the coronavirus and Florida’s Community Health Centers stand ready to respond and work with other providers in the health care system to ensure that Florida’s residents and visitors remain safe and healthy.”
Behrman said if you think you may be experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, please first contact your local county health department and they can refer individuals to a Community Health Center for follow-up care or additional services.
DOH has opened a COVID-19 Call Center to answer questions. The number is 1-866-779-6121 and the call center is available Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.