Local health centers face financial strain

Community health centers in Massachusetts are feeling financial pressure from the COVID-19 pandemic, so much so that advocates say the centers need more state and federal assistance to stay open.

The small nonprofits deliver care to many underserved patients on MassHealth, Medicare or without health insurance. In Massachusetts, where the first community health center in the country was established more than five decades ago, 52 centers serve about one million people, about a seventh of the state’s population.

In the best of times, community health centers operate on tight margins financed mostly by revenue from patient services and grants. But the coronavirus outbreak is forcing health centers to shift from primary care, dentistry, optometric and chronic illness management services to urgent care. The subsequent decrease in patient service revenue, advocates say, makes their ability to withstand the outbreak tenuous.

“We’re trying to make sure that we stay in the fight

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