Future of Community Health Centers in Syracuse, NYS Hinge on Next Federal Budget Deadline

Jan 29, 2018

Syracuse Community Health Center President and CEO Leola Rodgers and Senator Chuck Schumer explain the impact of the funding shortfall.
Credit Scott Willis / WAER News

Some Community Health Centers in Syracuse and across the state could be forced to close if Congress doesn’t approve federal funding in the next round of budget talks.  Senator Chuck Schumer stopped by the Syracuse Community Health Center Monday to pledge he’ll do all he can as Minority Leader to push through long-term funding by the February 8th deadline.  Schumer and SCHC President and CEO Leola Rodgers explain $3.8 million and 75 employees are on the line.

"Should SCHC lose its funding, the impact would be the layoff of dozens of staff members, closure of loss of satellite locations," said Rodgers.

And Schumer says that's just beginning.

"Worst of all, as bad as those two things are, thousands of people would not get health care.  Some of them would get sicker, end up in a hospital, and we'd all pay for that."

Sen. Schumer gestures as he arrives at the Syracuse Community Health Center on Monday. In the background, left to right, are county executive Joanie Mahoney, President and CEO of the Community Health Care Association of New York State Rose Duhan, Syracuse CHC President and CEO Leola Rodgers, and county health commissioner Dr. Indu Gupta.
Credit Scott Willis / WAER News

Syracuse Community health serves 30,000 patients at a dozen centers, and employs 250 people.  Schumer says a small but powerful faction of republicans refuses to allow the funding, which was supposed to come through four months ago.  But he and President of the Community Health Care Association of New York Rose Duhan say they can’t continue much longer.

"These are not big institutions with big endowments.  They have to cut back on services.  They don't have a cushion," Schumer said.

"We've been managing to continue to operate, but it makes it very difficult to make any plans about going forward," Duhan said.  "Health centers have struggled to recruit new staff, to fill vacancies without knowing if there's certainty of the funding in the future."

"If you want to hire a nurse practitioner, you can't do it if your previous one had left or retired," Schumer said.  "I am told by our community health centers, this is make or break."

Schumer says the centers fill a key gap in care for those who make too much to get Medicaid but might not have employer-based coverage.  About 750 centers serve 2.2 million patients a year in New York State alone. 

Numerous leaders from health centers across CNY joined Schumer to show their support.
Credit Scott Willis / WAER News