Community Health Centers: A Guide to a Vital Network of Care

Community Health Centers are medical clinics and so much more.
They are consumer-driven and patient-centered medical homes, local economic engines, and trusted
community partners. They form the backbone of America’s health care safety net and play a critical role
in improving health outcomes, lowering costs, and ensuring access to high-quality, integrated care.
By mission and statute, the health center model requires that health centers locate in areas of greatest
need and are led by representatives of the population they serve. In doing so, health centers reach
people facing the greatest difficulty accessing or affording health care services, who are at greater
risk of unnecessary hospitalizations or costly health complications. At health centers, everyone is guaranteed
access to timely care regardless of insurance status or ability to pay. All health centers offer a comprehensive
and integrated set of primary care services, including medical care, behavioral health, dental, vision, and
case management, among other services, depending on the needs of the community.
Thanks to continued bipartisan support from federal and state policymakers, health centers currently
serve 28 million patients – or 1 in every 12 people – in every state, territory, and the District of Columbia.1
At the same time, they eliminate waste and excess costs, saving the
entire health care system more than $24 billion annually.2
This graphical brief highlights the fundamental reasons why health
centers have grown into America’s largest primary care network
and, in doing so, have become vital health service providers for local,
regional, and national health systems – and most importantly, for the
millions of patients they serve.