There's no place like home, but for many vulnerable Americans, finding a medical home can be a struggle.
Community health centers formed more than 50 years ago to address this issue and offer preventative and primary care to those facing socioeconomic, geographic, linguistic and other barriers. Today, one in 12 people in the United States, nearly 26 million individuals, rely on federally funded health centers for care, according to the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration's website.
"We know that one of the biggest drivers for inequality is that people have different access to health care," Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke said Monday during a speech at the Erlanger Community Health Center on Dodson Avenue.
"If you're constantly having to worry about how to pay for your health care, this is something that not only affects you every day, it affects your family, it affects your job, it affects everything about your life," he said.
Erlanger Community Health Centers' employees marked the start of National Health Center Week, which is Aug. 13-19, and the achievements of their health centers along with community leaders, patients and citizens at the Dodson Avenue location on Monday.
"This is the one week that we have to share our services and the care that we provide to the patients in our community," said Angel Moore, chief executive of the Erlanger Community Health Centers.
The one-stop-shop center offers primary, pediatric, dental, pharmacy, mental health, women's health and outreach services regardless of a patient's ability to pay.
About 75 to 80 patients ranging from infants to seniors visit the Dodson center on a typical day, according to Catherine Spruce, chief operating officer of Erlanger's community health centers.
"Health centers consider themselves the experts in providing care to the underserved," she said. "It's just like a private practice — we like to keep it a medical home."
Ten providers, including two dentists, and 38 internal medicine residents from University Medical Associates practice at the Dodson Avenue center. Other community health centers in Chattanooga include Erlanger's Southside Community Health Center and Cherokee Health Systems on McCallie Avenue.
Contact Elizabeth Fite at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6673.