Health centers depending on key vote Friday

Community Health Centers that serve hundreds of thousands of San Diegans are now dealing with millions of dollars in federal cuts.

So far, they've instituted a hiring freeze and put expansion plans on hold. But if Congress doesn't act soon, those cuts could force the centers to reduce hours starting in January. 

"We pray that it won't," said Giselle Brown, who goes to the La Maestra Community Health Center in City Heights for basic medical care. "People would be left out, they wouldn't be getting the proper help or care that they need."

La Maestra is part of the Health Center Partners of Southern California network, consisting of 17 low-cost clinics in San Diego, Imperial and Riverside Counties.

The Federal Government subsidizes centers like it around the country with about $5 billion a year. But about 70 percent of that is expiring, and the first funds disappeared Sept. 30. Congress has not renewed it.

However, the House is scheduled to vote Friday on a bipartisan bill that would extend the funds for two years. 

Vernita Todd, a V.P. for the health center system of Southern California, says she's concerned the bill may not get out of the Senate - and the January deadline of reducing services is only getting closer. 

Brown says she hopes the funding is restored, not just for her, but for her community.  

 

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