Community Health Centers Back in the Spotlight

August 07, 2023

HOPE VALLEY, RI (August 6, 2023) In 2023, National Health Center Week takes place August 6 to 12. The awareness week serves as a reminder to recognize the critical services Community Health Centers provide Americans and the value they deliver to taxpayers.

The first Community Health Center (CHC) opened its doors in Dorchester, Massachusetts in December 1965. Today, eight CHCs operate in the Ocean State, and one out of every five Rhode Islanders call one their home for health. CHCs deliver innovative, integrated primary care and support services based upon the unique needs of the community each serves.

“Community Health Centers were developed to remove barriers to health care by connecting communities with providers, primary care and other essential health care services,” stated Alison L. Croke, Wood River Health’s President and CEO. “Our providers and staff are dedicated to increasing our community’s access to the health care services they need to thrive.”

Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) such as Wood River Health are non-profit, clinical care providers that offer comprehensive, patient-centered primary care in a federally designated medically under-served area. After being designated as an FQHC by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), a health center qualifies to receive funding under Section 330 of the Public Health Service Act.

To maintain its credentials, FQHCs must prove that no patient has been denied service due to their inability to pay. They must offer a Sliding Fee Scale Program based upon patients’ ability to pay for the care they require. They must have an ongoing quality improvement/assurance (QI/QA) system that includes clinical services and clinical management and maintains the confidentiality of patient records. They also must ensure that 51% of its governing board members are current patients of the health center.

Collectively, America’s health centers provide preventive and primary care services to over 30 million patients at 11,000 service delivery sites located in every state and territory in the United States. In addition to creating jobs and improving patients’ quality of life, CHCs save American taxpayers $24 billion a year in health care costs by preventing and managing chronic diseases.

Community Health Centers are not ordinary medical clinics; they reach beyond the exam room to care for the whole person by providing them with access to necessities like food and housing. To ensure it supports its patients whose needs extend beyond health care, Wood River Health established the Kim Hebert Community. The fund was named to honor Kimberley Hebert, a former health center patient who passed away in 2021 after a courageous battle with pancreatic cancer. During patients' regular health screenings, Wood River Health’s providers ask every patient questions to determine if they might require additional support. If they do, the patient is connected with a member of the Community Resources Team to identify ways to meet their needs.

Any patient experiencing financial needs is encouraged to apply for the Sliding Fee Scale Program. Patients qualify for this program based on their annual gross income and family size. They can be insured, uninsured or underinsured. Eligible patients will receive discounts on their medical, dental and behavioral health bills.

To learn more about the medical, dental, behavioral health and social support services that Wood River Health provides to its community or its Sliding Fee Scale Program, please visit

About Wood River Health

Since 1976, Wood River Health has delivered medical, dental and social services to the communities of southwestern Rhode Island and southeastern Connecticut. Its mission is to provide its patients with high-quality and affordable health care services through a compassionate, team-based approach. Its vision is for every member of its community to experience physical, emotional and social well-being.

A private, non-profit Community Health Center, Wood River Health is devoted to providing quality patient care to over 8,600 patients. It is recognized by the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) as a Patient-Centered Medical Home. As a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), Wood River Health receives funds from the HRSA Health Center Program to provide primary care services in underserved areas.