Since the beginning of the Health Center movement in the 1960s, we have responded to public health as well as social and environmental issues affecting the health of vulnerable communities. Drs. Geiger and Gibson not only provided medical care, but addressed key issues of poverty including food insecurity and water sanitation. Today, community health centers are once again on the front lines of a major public health crisis: COVID-19. We are called to join our public health partners and local health systems in responding to this pandemic and ensuring the health and safety of the most vulnerable in our communities. The effect the virus is having a disproportionate consequence on low-income communities of color and exacerbating long-standing health inequities.

Although this is a crisis for health care organizations, who have seen revenues plummet because of decreased encounters and the need to stay home, it is also a time of rapid innovation and change. We have converted to telemedicine and virtual visits in a dramatic way. Technology in the clinic, and in the patient’s home, will be key to the future of health care delivery. We need to understand and overcome barriers our patients have to accessing care through these new channels.

Health centers in Oregon are well positioned to respond to the present crisis and thrive in the new landscape of CCO 2.0, Value-Based Pay, addressing the social determinants of health and striving for health equity. Over the next two years, we will work together to build on the excellent foundation of collaboration that has brought us so many innovations in payment reform, practice transformation, and adopting best practices. Together, we can strengthen our role as agents of change and indispensable providers of care to the most vulnerable members of our communities.

As the incoming Board President of OPCA, I look forward to working with each of you to ensure health centers thrive into the future. Together we will address the key health issues in communities across Oregon.

-Gil Muñoz, CEO, Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center

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