ED GRO Initiatives for Community Health Centers in Health Care Reform

Psychologists in Community Health Centers & National Health Service Corps Should Increase Due to Passage of Health Care Reform Legislation

A longtime priority for the Education Government Relations Office (Ed GRO) is to increase the number of psychologists working in Community Health Centers (CHCs) and to promote the role of psychologists in integrated health care. That effort received a boost with the passage of P.L. 111-148, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010. The funding will expand health care services including mental and behavioral health in integrated health care settings. This should allow for a significant increase in the number of psychologists working in CHCs over the next six years, with many of these positions being filled by National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Scholars and Loan Repayers.

Ed GRO Advocacy Focus on Community Health Centers and National Health Service Corps

Due to the efforts of Ed GRO staff, psychologists have been participating in the NHSC Loan Repayment Program since 1995. Continuing these efforts, in 2002, Ed GRO staff was successful in securing statutory language in the Safety Net Legislation that gave psychologists and psychology trainees access to the NHSC financial aid programs. In addition, the 2002 law placed an emphasis on mental and behavioral health in the FQHC program. More recently in 2007, Ed GRO staff worked tirelessly with state Primary Care Associations to place psychologists and psychology trainees in CHCs beginning with California and New Mexico. For more information on all past legislative initiative on CHC and NHSC, go to the Ed GRO homepage.

Community Health Centers in the Health Care Reform Legislation

Federally funded under the authority of the Public Health Service Act and administered by the U.S. Health Resources & Services Administrations' (HRSA) Bureau of Primary Health Care (BHPR), the first of these federally supported primary care clinics seeking to address the health care needs of our nation's underserved populations opened in 1965. Now with more than 8000 sites in both urban and rural communities throughout the country, these health centers serve about 19 million patients per year.

The historic passage of the health care reform legislation provides a significant boost to CHCs.  Specifically, the legislation authorized $11 billion for the expansion of the CHCs over 5 years beginning in 2011. Not only does this authorized funding enable CHCs to serve close to 20 million new patients each year, it also adds an estimated 15,000 healthcare providers to their staff by 2015, thus creating new jobs opportunities for health service psychologists. This funding increase, which expands the number of sites and locations, supports expanded health care services, and allocates $1.5 billion to support the construction and renovation of CHCs, is expected to approximately double the number of people seen in health centers each year.

National Health Service Corps in the Health Care Reform Legislation

In addition to the $11 billion for CHCs, the Act authorized $1.5 billion for the expansion of the National Health Service Corps. Specifically, the act reauthorizes the NHSC through 2015, increases authorized funding for the NHSC by over 400%, and substantially increases access to care and the mental health professional workforce. It will also raise the maximum loan repayment award and for the first time allow clinicians working part-time to participate in the loan repayment program.

Since 1972, the NHSC, administered by HRSA, has provided funding for more than 30,000 clinicians, expanding access to health care services and improving the health of people who live in urban and rural areas where health care is scarce.