This is National Health Center Week.
Friday, the Shawnee Health Care office in Carbondale hosted a luncheon for area lawmakers to update them on the challenges faced by community health centers.
Shawnee Health Service executive director Patsy Jensen says she wants policy makers at the state and federal levels to understand how much effort it takes to break down the barriers to treat the most at-risk patients.
"Whether it's pharmaceutical assistance, transportation, case management, those are the things that separate us from other providers, are the support services that we wrap around patients, and the work being done to make sure that they get all the resources they need."
Congressman Mike Bost, State Representative Terri Bryant and State Senator Gary Forby were in attendance. Forby says community health centers will continue to suffer as long as Illinois operates without a full-year spending plan.
"The last year, we didn't have a budget. No matter what we do, whoever it is, we have to have a budget. There are a lot of people out there that need health care, they need help, and we need places like this for them to get to."
Jensen says as mental health facilities suffer from a lack of funds, community health centers are having to treat them. She says these patients must have care since people suffering from severe mental illness live 10 years less on average than those suffering from normal chronic diseases.
"We know we have a huge, vast risk for our mental health patients. Mental health can strike at any time in anyone. It doesn't discriminate. So, we need to be able to make sure that that's a service that is available and it's a struggle."
Congressman Bost says he is working with Pennsylvania Congressman Tim Murphy - a psychologist who is an expert on mental health issues - to bring federal legislation to the floor in Washington.
"He is the one that's proposed so many changes to our mental health providers and our goal to provide mental health throughout the nation, regardless of socio-economic status and I'll be working with him. As a matter of fact, when we get back, that's one of the bills they're talking about working on."
There are 350 community health care center sites in Illinois.