Standing up for community health

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Community health centers, including Northwest Community Health Center here in Libby, provide access to quality care to one in 10 Montanans. Community health centers are vital across rural America. Thatís why, after Congress let them sit in limbo for more than 130 days, I rattled some cages back in Washington to finally secure much-needed funding and certainty for them.

Last year, I held a series of listening sessions across our state. I heard time and again how much folks rely on these clinics, and appreciate the quality care they provide.

Congressí four-month failure to pass a long-term budget, forced Montanaís 40 community health facilities to consider scaling back services or closing altogether.

After many rounds of negotiations, I pushed the Senate to reach a bipartisan agreement to increase funding for Montanaís community health centers for the next two years.

This bipartisan agreement will keep health care accessible for 100,000 Montanans and will ensure that folks in Lincoln County donít have to travel hundreds of miles to take their kids to a checkup or get patched up after an injury.

Thatís why I fought to get this fixed. I stood with Montanaís health leaders on the Capitol steps, demanded action on the Senate floor, and even voted against short-term government funding budgets until folks would listen.

I told Washington to stop playing politics with your health care. I was the only member of Montanaís congressional delegation to support the renewal and increase to community health center funding.

I am incredibly pleased that we prevented these clinics from closing. But we have more work to do, because Montanaís communities deserve more than two years of certainty.

Iíve lived my whole life on the land my grandparents homesteaded in Big Sandy. Iíve worked that farm every planting season like my parents did and their parents before them.

Every farmer knows that accidents happen. Between losing my three fingers in a meat grinder to various bumps, cuts and bruises, I know how important rural health facilities are to our rural and frontier communities.

I will do everything I can in Congress to ensure you and your family never have to question whether Northwest Community Health Center will be there when you need it.

Jon Tester is a third generation farmer from Big Sandy and the senior Senator from Montana.

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