The staff, patients and board members of Hope Clinic of Ellis County have joined together to urge lawmakers on Capitol Hill to extend funding for community health centers and preserve affordable health care in smaller communities.

The appeal to extend funding comes after months of living under a “funding cliff,” states a Hope Clinic press release. The announcement also notes critical funding for health centers and other programs expired on Oct. 1, 2017. A large number of health centers, including Hope Clinic, has had to make tough budget choices to ensure they can continue to provide care.

“This is not how a health system should run – particularly given that the health center program has served the nation so well in terms of saving lives and dollars,” said Hope Clinic Chief Executive Officer Barbara Clark. “We urge our leaders in Congress to act now and fix the funding cliff so that we can continue to provide affordable health care to people in need.”

Clark said the clinic serves Ellis County, as well as surrounding areas.

Hope Clinic, a Federally Qualified Health Center, served 6,800 patients with nearly 24,000 visits in 2016. That number grew to 7,900 patients with 25,000 visits in 2017. Hope Clinic expects to serve over 8,000 patients in 2018.

According to the United States Census Bureau, 17 percent of the population between ages 18 and 64 is uninsured.

“Hope Clinic is a place to give health care needed by so many people who are unable to afford high insurance premiums, Medicaid and CHIP recipients, and young pregnant women in need of prenatal care,” Clark said. “Hope also partners with Baylor Scott & White and Ennis Regional hospitals to care for those who need primary care.”

Clark added that the clinic has excellent support from city, county, state and federal officials.

The call to fix the funding cliff comes as patients, doctors and staff at health centers face a ticking clock, with a substantial portion of federal funding only to last until next month.

Health centers, which currently serve 27 million patients, are already enacting hiring freezes, cutting back key programs and services for patients, and facing site closures. Not only will the funding cliff trigger job losses in the local economy, on a national scale it means the closure of 2,800 health center sites, loss of health care access for 9 million patients, and more than 50,000 job losses.

Health center advocates organized a Day of Demonstration to call attention to the funding cliff on Tuesday, Feb. 6.

They also plan to visit Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. to meet with lawmakers and urge them to pass legislation that will extend funding in the next continuing resolution.

Hope Clinic originally established in 1999 as a faith-based, not-for-profit corporation, the Ellis County Coalition for Health Options, providing comprehensive health care services for the entire family.

Located in Waxahachie, Texas, Hope Clinic became a Federally Qualified Health Center in 2009, offering a sliding fee discount to the uninsured and underserved in and around Ellis County. In 2016, Hope Clinic added a location in Ennis, Texas.

To learn more about health centers, visit www.nachc.org. You can also follow the conversation on Twitter at a #RedAlert4CHCs.