What is a Community Health Center?

Community, Migrant, Homeless, and Public Housing Health Centers are non-profit, community-directed health care providers serving low income and medically underserved communities. Initially authorized and funded as separate programs, community health centers, migrant health centers, health care for the homeless, and public housing primary care were later reauthorized and consolidated under the Health Centers Consolidation Act of 1996 (Public Law 104-299) which amended Section 330 of the Public Health Service Act.  Community health centers provide access to all, including the most vulnerable populations isolated from other forms of care because of financial, geographic, language, cultural or other challenges. All community health centers:

  • Are located in or serve designated high-need communities or populations
  • Are governed by community boards, at least 51% of whose members are health center patients.
  • Provide comprehensive primary health care services as well as supportive and enabling services (such as education, translation and transportation, etc.) that promote access to health care.
  • Are open to all, regardless of insurance status or ability to pay, and offer fees adjusted based on ability to pay.
  • Meet other performance and accountability requirements regarding administrative, clinical, and financial operations.

Health centers tailor their services to address the unique needs of the communities they serve, offering comprehensive primary and preventive care for children and adults as well as dental, mental health and substance abuse, pharmacy and enabling services to help reduce barriers to care. Some health centers also receive designated funding to focus on certain especially vulnerable populations, including individuals and families experiencing homelessness, migrant/ agricultural workers and their families, and those living in public housing.