NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - The government reopened Monday, but long-term federal funding for community health centers was left out of the latest stopgap spending bill.
Health centers whose federal grants started January 1 may be forced to consider layoffs and even closures. This uncertainty in federal funding concerns the East Texas Community Health Center's management and 9,000 patients like one woman who saw the doctor Tuesday thanks to federal funding that financed the East Texas Community Health center's newest location in Lufkin.
"This clinic would not be a part of North Lufkin if it was not for the federal funding," said Vickie Yarbrough, a nurse at the clinic.
It's the same kind of funding director Robin Moore is unsure she can rely on this year.
"How can we plan effectively without knowing that that funding is going to be there?" Moore said.
In Nacogdoches, Kathy Harris, a patient counselor, is an advocate for the 9,000 East Texans who use the clinic.
As a clinic patient herself, Harris understands the anxiety. Her extended family members are patients there as well.
"The services that we use in the clinic might not be available because of funding," Harris said.
Alleya Grigsby is a patient, too, but as lead care coordinator, she recognizes uncertain funding is a public health issue.
"We service everyone in East Texas,' Grigsby said "We have people coming all the way from Beaumont. All the way from North Texas, just coming to use our program because we're rare in this area."
the East Texas Health Center's grant year doesn't start until June 1st. There's some time yet, but planning takes place now, not later.
Immigration issues and just keeping the government running are the priorities for Congress. That means health care centers will just have to prepare for the next funding battle.
"No offense to any other program, but all kinds of other noise going on that's getting more play," Moore said. "That puts our voices down very low on the totem pole."
Community health care centers are supported by both Democrats and Republicans, but continue falling short of restoring the health center's $3.6 billion annual appropriations.