Partnership Health lands service grant, though clock is ticking on long-term funding

Partnership Health Center in Missoula provided care to 16,000 individuals spread out over 66,000 visits last year. (Missoula Current file photo)

Partnership Health Center in Missoula will share roughly $1.2 million in federal funding announced Friday by Sen. Jon Tester to continue providing community care.

The funding, awarded by the Department of Health and Human Services, includes $291,000 for Partnership, along with similar funding for centers in Helena, Great Falls and Hardin.

Tester said the award is critical to ensuring such centers can continue their mission, even as Congress debates long-term funding.

“These funds will help ensure our community health centers can continue to meet the needs of Montanans, even when dysfunction in Washington once again threatens their ability to provide care to folks across our state,” Tester said in a statement Friday.

Partnership is one of more than 10,000 community health care centers across the country, and Congress has been unable to agree on a funding model. Centers like Partnership provide affordable service to more than 25 million people, or roughly one out of 12 Americans.

Last year, more than 16,000 individuals in Missoula and its surrounding counties turned to Partnership Health Center for medical, dental and behavioral care. The facility recorded 66,000 visits, according to executive director Laurie Fancis.

While Francis wasn’t immediately available for comment Friday, she told the Missoula Current in September that the continuation of key federal programs is vital to its mission.

“Every day, we respond to the challenges working Americans face as they attempt to afford housing, health care, child care and food on a budget that has not kept pace with the costs of living,” she said.

Nearly half of the center’s patients report living at or below 100 percent of the federal poverty level, or less than $12,140 annually for a single individual and $25,000 for a family of four.

Congress last year boosted the program’s funds from $1.5 billion to $1.6 billion and extended that through Fiscal Year 2019. But Tester said the funding is set to expire on Nov. 21 if Congress doesn’t act.

“These centers are absolutely critical to the health and safety of Montanans, and Congress needs to do its job and reauthorize sustainable community health center funding,” he said.