WASHINGTON, DC In an effort to continue and expand quality health care services for low-income people across the country, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) joined his colleagues yesterday in introducing legislation to reauthorize the Community Health Center (CHC) program.The Health Centers Renewal Act of 2006 would reauthorize the CHC program at $1.96 billion for fiscal years 2008 through 2011. This is an increase in funding of $623 million from the last authorization in 2002.The CHC program provides health, dental, and mental services to more than 15 million people nationwide each year. In Rhode Island, over 110,000 patients, or ten percent of the population, visit these health centers annually, including 30,000 uninsured people. Rhode Island is served by 12 health centers across the state, serving every community and township. The health centers accept all patients who are charged based on their ability to pay. Sixty-five percent of those served are at or below the poverty level. Reed stated, Community Health Centers provide invaluable health services to communities and people who otherwise may not have access to quality care. This legislation will help these centers to continue their important work in Rhode Island and across the nation.In addition to providing primary care services, the Community Health Centers provide support services such as translation and transportation to patients. Federally recognized CHCs are governed by a community board with a majority of members as health center patients. One of the most impressive aspects of the Community Health Center program is the ability for patients to serve on their governing boards. These members are aware of the needs of the community and are able to translate this into improved services for everyone, concluded Reed.Kerrie Jones Clark, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Health Center Association stated, Rhode Island Health Centers reduce health disparities, increase access to primary and dental care, and support preventive care which reduces emergency room visits across the state.Last year, CHCs in Rhode Island received 350,000 visits and performed over 600,000 procedures, reducing the burden on the states hospitals and emergency rooms.CHCs are funded by both public and private entities. Federal grants provide 24 percent of the annual budget with the remainder provided through state and local governments, Medicare, Medicaid, private contributions, private insurance, and patient fees.In addition to this legislation, Reed in April joined his colleagues in requesting an increase in funding for Community Health Centers to allow them to care for additional patients. In June, the U.S. House of Representatives passed similar legislation by a vote of 424-3.