U.S. Sen. Bob Casey is calling on Congress to act immediately to provide funding for the nation’s community health centers.

He is urging Congress to take action before the Feb. 8 deadline. His push comes as federal appropriations have lapsed for more than 100 days and local operating dollars for community health centers are running low. These centers provide quality health care to more than 800,000 people across Pennsylvania.

“The impact of this issue cannot be overstated,” Casey said as he toured the Abbottsford Falls-Family Practice and Counseling Network in North Philadelphia.

“I will continue to push community health centers because they don’t have the long term funding in place that they need,” he added. “Republicans have total control of the house and the senate and the presidency. They have to get their act together and fund community health centers because right now we have a circumstance where they have run out of time.”

The Community Health Center Funds authorization lapsed on Sept. 30 and the Congress failed to renew its $3.6 billion in funding. If Congress does not act, community health centers will lose nearly 70 percent of the federal dollars they rely on to operate.

While $550 million in short term funds has been provided for these centers, Casey stresses long term funding is needed.

During his visit to Family Practice and Counseling Network, Casey interacted with health care professionals and patients who underscored the importance of funding these centers. FPCN provides primary care, behavioral health, dental, diabetes, nutrition pain management and preventive services under one roof.

For Eugenia Turner, the center has been a life saver. She talked with Casey as he toured the health facility. When she first visited the center 2011, Turner, who has had kidney issues, was uninsured and extremely ill. Even though she was uninsured at the time, she was not denied care.

“I came here and I was very, very sick and this place saved my life,” said Turner, who became emotional as she described the center’s positive impact.

“I’m a registered nurse and I have Personal Choice insurance. I could go anywhere but I choose to come here because this is the place that accepted me when I had no insurance. I’m grateful to be here. I wouldn’t want this place to go anywhere. I refer people here.”

When Patricia Flores, a 63-year-old resident of North Philadelphia, needed medical help for her chronic pain she turned to the center for care. She has chronic arthritis and a herniated disc in her back which often leaves her in pain. She receives her primary care services at the center where she also undergoes acupuncture, meditation and yoga.

“This place changed my life,” Flores said.

Through its various centers, FPCN serves about 25,000 patients in Philadelphia on an annual basis.

“We are very focused on not just the medical care but on addressing the social determinants of health,” said Donna Torrisi, executive director of FPCN.

The organization is at risk of losing about 70 percent of its $4 million federal grant. Torrisi said if they lose the funding, about 20 staff members would be laid off and they would be forced to cut back on the number of patients served by about 2,000.

ajones@phillytrib.com (215) 893-5747

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