People who experience houselessness endure higher rates of chronic and acute disease, behavioral health conditions, addiction issues and other needs that make them vulnerable to poor health, disability, and early death.

Community health centers provide preventive and primary care services to over 30 million people and are the first to respond with wrap around care during disasters and health emergencies. Their model of care is driven by services needed in each unique community. Together, they are the backbone of the nation’s primary care system. Community Health Centers lower health care costs to the tune of $24 billion a year by reducing the rate of chronic diseases and stimulating local economies.

Central City Concern in Portland, OR helps people overcome barriers such as a lack of affordable housing, health care, and living-wage jobs while also addressing the personal impacts of systemic racism, mental health challenges, chronic health conditions, substance use disorders, and time spent in the justice system. Each year, more than 13,000 people turn to them for compassionate support to become self-sufficient and productive.

Primary care is one of the Central City Concern’s pillars in supporting their clients. They also provide recovery services, mental health support, acupuncture treatment, Hep C treatment, culturally specific services, and recuperative care. Central City Concern’s holistic approach to health care services ultimately improves their clients’ outcomes and overall quality of life. Their clients then often pay it forward by becoming mentors to others in need of services.

Community Health Centers are not just healers, they are innovators who look beyond medical charts to address the factors that may cause poor health, such as poverty, homelessness, substance use, mental illness, access to nutritious food, and unemployment. They are a critical piece of health care systems and collaborate with hospitals, local and state governments, social, health and business organizations to improve health outcomes for people who are medically vulnerable.

A CCC provider performers an annual check-up

Because a person’s health is highly affected by social factors, some of Central City Concern’s clients, former clients, and staff also volunteer to advocate for key local improvements such as:

  • Renter protections and supportive employment before the Portland City Council.
  • Improving community health and wellness through criminal justice reform, housing access, and economic opportunity.
  • Investing more in culturally specific behavioral health services for our Latinx and Black communities in Multnomah County.
  • Explaining to local and state officials why Oregon needs a better re-entry and diversion program to improve health, wellness, and justice in our African American community.

Their efforts have continued through a global pandemic, a shifting economy, an evolving drug crisis, and uncertainties about the future of Community Health Center funding.

Long-term, stable funding for Community Health Centers will ensure Oregon can close the growing access gap for medically vulnerable communities. Show your support during National Health Center Week by supporting a health center in your community.