Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-11) was today awarded the Community Health Defender Award by the National Association of Community Health Centers.
Frank Principi, executive director of the Greater Prince William Community Health Center and Woodbridge District Supervisor, presented Connolly with the award as part of National Community Health Center Week. Virginia Senator Toddy Puller (D-36) was also present.
"He has a track record in supporting social services for this community," Principi said. "He fights every day on Capitol Hill for the families and small businesses here in Prince William. He defends us in Congress and fights to promote and protect the funding we get from the federal government."
Connolly credited the Affordable Care Act and Principi's hard work for reviving Greater Prince William Community Health Center.
"Health care is a human right, not a privilege," he said. "Your health care shouldn't be a function of whether you can afford it or not. In a great country, we can afford to change access and universalize it. This center was scheduled to close, today it is viable, growing. Passion matters in this business, and Frank Principi has it."
He praised the health center's model of accepting all patients, even those who don't have insurance.
"It's not government bureaucrats who stand between you and your doctor, it's insurance bureaucrats," he said.
Joanne Grossi, Regional Director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, called Connolly a "champion of health care," and also praised the Affordable Care Act.
"We're giving out $11 million over the next five years to expand existing health centers or to create new ones," she said. "Here in the Commonwealth, we've already given out more than $72 million to the more than 107 community health centers, and this health center received $616,000."
Tom Van Coverden, president of the National Association of Community Health Centers and a 35-year resident of Prince William County, said that health centers would save money for the federal government in the long run.
"My youngest daughter died at a very young age," he said. "If we'd had a health center, we could have caught that and diagnosed that earlier. it didn't work out that way. I just wish you were here then."
Kathy Bentz with the Greater Prince William Community Health Center told Patch that this year's Health Center Week festivities brought in 10 times the number of participants that they've had in past years.
"It's generating so many folks," she said.
Principi told Patch that the Greater Prince William Community Health Center's participation in National Community Health Center Week has meant 365 new individuals registered for free health screenings. Health screenings include tests for anemia, diabetes, heart disease and glaucoma, as well as hearing and vision tests. In addition, mammograms were offered yesterday and will be offered again on Aug. 9. There are 32 open spots for tomorrow's mammograms.
The health center also offers fun activities today, including a moon bounce, jump roping, face painting, and a cook-out.
"We're here to celebrate health and have some fun at the same time," Principi said.
Principi also said that the 50 health center staff members had served 10,000 patients in the past year.
"Community health centers like this one right here serve 20 million people in 8000 locations around our country," he said. "Centers save our health care system $24 billion, because we're keeping families together, we're keeping mom and dad at work, we're keeping kids in school, and we're trying to keep them all out of the emergency room."
About 60 million Americans are currently without insurance or affordable access to health care, he said.
"Right here in Prince William County, we count 72,000 without health care insurance," he said. "So you can see here at Greater Prince William, we have a long way to go, serving 10,000 of those 72,000 folks. They struggle to find care, they struggle to find transportation, they struggle to find someone who speaks their language and understands their culture. And that is what we do here, day in and day out."
Effective in October, the center will also be open Thursday evenings. It is already open every day of the week and on Wednesday evenings.
"We don't care what zip code you live in, we don't care whether you're carrying an insurance card, we don't care what your income is, we serve all and we're currently serving people from 32 different zip codes," Principi said.