By Mary Zelazny, CEO, Finger Lakes Community Health, an independent healthcare organization with eight health centers in the Finger Lakes region.
Community Health Centers. You may not be familiar with community health centers but during this past year, you may have heard more about Finger Lakes Community Health (FLCH). Why? We were on the front lines – caring for our patients throughout the pandemic. We kept our doors open as usual because our patients and our communities needed us to be there for them. We added services such as “drive-up” COVID testing in our parking lots every week and providing COVID-19 vaccine events to everyone in our communities. That’s one of the benefits of community health centers – we serve our communities how they want to be served and offer access to great health care by a caring team.
Since it’s National Health Center Week (August 8 – 14), let’s take a moment to talk about the impact of community health centers.
Who is Finger Lakes Community Health? We are one of 70 Community Health Centers in NYS.
- We are an independent healthcare organization with eight health centers in the region. You may know us as Geneva Community Health, Sodus Community Health, Penn Yan Community Health, and so on. You can find a location near you on our website: LocalCommunityHealth.com
- We began as a health center serving agricultural workers and we continue to serve our farm communities by providing care to over 7,000 workers and their dependents. They are essential and without them, getting food to our stores and on our tables would be much more difficult.
- Our services are available to the entire community with medical, dental, and behavioral health services at our 8 convenient locations.
- In 2019, we served 28,927 patients including 8,897 children.
- We support over 300 jobs in our community as well as serving as an economic engine by using local businesses for our supplies and needed services.
Nationwide, community health centers provide preventive and primary care services to almost 32 million people and have continued to do so while facing a global pandemic. Community Health Centers provide care to people who disproportionately suffer from chronic disease and lack access to affordable, quality care. While our approach is community-based and local, collectively we are the backbone of the nation’s primary care system. Community Health Centers lower health care costs to the tune of 24 billion dollars a year, reduce rates of chronic disease, and stimulate local economies.
During the pandemic, telehealth made medical visits easier.
Due to fears about spreading COVID-19, getting a face-to-face appointment with a provider was not easily available. That did not stop us. As a longtime health center program offering telehealth services, our patients could be “seen” by a provider without going into the health center. Telehealth technology uses the power of the internet to deliver a healthcare consultation directly to you using your smartphone, tablet, or computer. It continues to be used for many health visits today.
We’ve done over 7,000 COVID-19 tests!
Finger Lakes Community Health was one of the first in the area to set up “drive-up” COVID-19 testing at our health centers. By having patients stay in their car, it kept them and our staff safe while providing a valuable service.
We also offered several Public Health Departments to get their communities tested as well as offering other services, including testing events for first responders, police, and other frontline workers as requested.
Today, more of our focus is on vaccine events, however, if you need a COVID-19 test, please call one of our health centers.
We began giving out vaccines when they became available and we continue to have vaccine events for everyone – patients and non-patients. To date, we have given 7,234 vaccines and we’re still going! We have the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccine available during our events on Monday and Thursday evenings at Newark and Geneva Community Health. Again, check our website for more details www.LocalCommunityHealth.com
Busy year for health centers
Though this was often a challenging and stressful year, we feel grateful that we were able to help so many in our community. I want to thank our staff for their tireless dedication to our patients. And we are grateful to our patients who supported us during this pandemic.