Standing up for health care

It has been a busy start to the post-Memorial Day holiday weekend for Sen. Heidi Heitkamp.

On Tuesday, she received an award for her work in supporting community health centers and earlier that day participated in a discussion with small business owners in Minot.

Heitkamp received the Distinguished Advocate Award from the National Association of Community Health Centers and toured the Northland Community Health Center. The clinic aims to help provide more care as the area’s population grows.

Honored for her work in standing up for community health centers and continued support for safety net health programs, Heitkamp has reinforced the important role that community health centers play in providing care in rural communities and for struggling families. As North Dakota’s population grows, the state’s health care system is feeling added pressure, highlighting the need of more health clinics, like the Northland Community Health Center clinic in Minot.

“No family should ever have to worry about a sick child or elderly parent not getting access to needed care because they are far from a hospital or are struggling to afford medical care,” Heitkamp said. “Our community health centers provide critical resources for families across North Dakota so they can get medical service. Especially as the population continues to grow dramatically around Minot, making sure residents have access to care is important for all of us.”

Heitkamp said she is proud of the work Northland Community Health Center is doing to help make that possible, she added. “Additionally, it’s an honor to be recognized for supporting these health centers, and I’m committed to continuing to strengthen and expand access to medical care for North Dakotans.”

Heitkamp has continued to push for needed investments in community health centers and make sure they have adequate funding and resources to continue serving an increasing number of patients without compromising the quality of care. The health reform law made significant investments in the expansion and improvement of existing facilities and construction of sites like the Northland Community Health Center in Minot.

There are five community health center organizations in North Dakota that have a total of 14 service sites throughout the state. In 2012, the state’s clinics served more than 30,000 patients, 30 percent of whom were 19 years old or younger.

It came as a surprise to Heitkamp to be awarded the Distinguished Advocate Award.

“It’s quite an honor,” she said, and she liked that she received the award in Minot. “It lets people know in Minot that the clinic is here. We’re working to make health care more accessible and available across the state of North Dakota.”

Northland Community Health Center is looking to expand its dental care services since it is a critical need, Heitkamp said.

The National Association of Community Health Distinguished Advocate Award recognizes leaders who understand the vital role that community health centers play in communities and are committed to making sure they have the resources necessary to provide medical care for local citizens.

Earlier Tuesday, Heitkamp also joined officials from the Small Business Administration’s North Dakota District Office to help connect small businesses and entrepreneurs in Minot with available resources to start or grow and expand a small business. As a member of the Senate Committee on Small Business, Heitkamp is working to make sure all North Dakota small business owners and entrepreneurs have access to the necessary resources to be successful and continue to bring more jobs to the state. That event was held at SRT.