Vista Foods in Richford, 1-11-2020 (copy)

The welcome sign is seen in front of the Richford Health Center in January 2020.

RICHFORD — The Richford Health Center is one of 11 Vermont Community Health Centers to receive funding through the American Rescue Plan, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders announced Thursday.

Sanders, who made the announcement on his website, chairs both the Budget Committee and the HELP Subcommittee on Primary Health and Retirement.

“This funding will expand access to vaccines, provide for ongoing testing and treatment, and ensure Vermonters are getting the care they need to recover from the hardship of the past year,” said Sanders.

In his announcement, the senator noted that this is the biggest single investment made in the state’s community health center’s history. Each qualified health center will receive a portion of $33.37 million, with Richford being awarded $2.6 million.

The funding — provided through a stimulus package passed earlier this month — will provide relief and further address the current health and economic crises.

“Nearly one-in-three Vermonters rely on community health centers. They know they will get high quality health care, dental care, and affordable prescription drugs,” said Sanders.

Federally qualified health centers offer primary, mental and oral health care, as well as substance use disorder treatment and affordable prescription drugs, to 155,000 Vermonters each year.

“We are very grateful to our delegation in their support of federally qualified health centers,” said Pamela Parsons, executive director of NOTCH, which runs the health center in Richford. “This type of investment across all the FQHCs will strengthen primary care in the rural communities throughout Vermont.”

The American Rescue Plan also provides $800 million nationally for the National Health Services Corp, which provides scholarships and loan repayment to clinicians who work in underserved and rural communities.

Parsons said the Richford Health Center needs to review the guidance and develop a plan for the funding within 60 days.

Tess Kuenning, president and CEO of Bi-State Primary Care Association, said, ”The release of Health Center funding marks a transformational moment in time when critical resources are dedicated to medically underserved communities. The funding will allow Vermont Health Centers to widen and deepen critical services for communities in need.”

Since the beginning of the current public health crisis, Vermont community health centers have received more than $42 million in federal emergency funds.

“This funding is significant, but our work is not done until everyone in this country has access to affordable medical care when and where they need it. That is why I will continue to fight for long-term, robust funding for our community health centers so that they can care for our people long after this pandemic over,” said Sanders.

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