News Releases

Murray Helps Clark County Break Ground on New Community Health Center

Aug 12 2004

New Multi-Service Center Will Be Constructed on the Veterans Campus that Murray Helped Save

(Vancouver, WA) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray helped break ground on the new Clark County Center for Community Health in Vancouver. When complete, the Center will provide convenient access to enhanced social and health services for veterans and other community members.

Last year, when the Bush Administration tried to close the Vancouver VA, Murray worked with local leaders to save the facility and allow this new clinic to move forward.

Senator Murray's Remarks Follow:

Thank you, Betty Sue. [Betty Sue Morris, Clark County Council] I’m so excited to join all of you for this groundbreaking. There is no doubt that throughout our state, we face challenges on health care, but together we are making progress.

I’m so honored to work with the leaders here and throughout Washington to make health care more affordable, to support innovation, and to expand access to care. This great new health care center will expand access for families throughout Southwest Washington and that help will help the whole community. It will keep families healthy, and it will help make health care less expensive by preventing trips to the Emergency Room.

This groundbreaking is such a great turnaround. Just a year ago, Southwest Washington was threatened. As you all know so well, the Administration was trying to close down our veterans’ hospital. That would have left our veterans without the care they need, and it would have meant the end of this new health center.

But in the face of those challenges, this community showed what it’s made of. You stood up, and you spoke out. Together, we saved this hospital, we saved this campus, and we opened the door for this great groundbreaking today.

I want to thank everyone who’s made it possible –especially Betty Sue Morris and all of the County Commissioners. You had the vision to go to the VA and create one of our country’s finest partnerships to benefit both veterans and local residents. I also want to thank Dr. Tuchschmidt and his staff at the VA, Brian Baird and Maria Cantwell, and Royce Pollard and the City of Vancouver.

This new center will serve the entire community, and I’m so proud of the partnership it creates between our veterans and all our other local residents

To our veterans here today, let me say we know we owe all our veterans a great deal. That’s why I asked to serve on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. And it’s why I used that position to pressure the Administration to keep our VA hospitals open. For me, it’s about keeping our commitments. Our veterans were there for us when our country needed them, and together we stood up for them when they needed us. Not only did we save this hospital, but we got the VA to agree to expand services here and to create a partnership that is now a national model.

Throughout our state, we’re facing challenges on health care, but you’ve shown what we can do when we stand together, and I’m honored to be your partner.

In the Senate, I’ve always tried to put myself on the right committees so we can do more to expand access to health care. Today, I serve on the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee where we develop our nation’s health policies, and I also serve on the subcommittee that funds them. So I get to shape the police our communities need and then I work to get them funded.

This is especially important to our state today. It's estimated that 12% of the population lacks access to basic health services. Even more receive inadequate care. As bad as this is for the people and families who see this first hand – it’s bad for economics as well. The cost estimate to Washington state annually for avoidable emergency Room visits is $141 million. That’s a lot of money. And that’s why we’ve got to take bold steps, like the one today, to support community based health centers.

Our uninsured population is growing, there is a shortage of primary care physicians, and there is an increasing strain on our hospital Emergency Departments. Community based health centers can be a cost effective solution to addressing these problems. In fact, a report by the National Association of Community Health Centers released Monday found that per patient costs for seeing patients at federally qualified Community Health Centers, are, on average, $250 less than the average expenditure for an office based medical provider.

System-wide, that means more health care. And specifically it means: better disease management, access to mental health services, more moms getting prenatal care, substance abuse treatment, more well-child exams, and more screening for disease.

In short, it is good preventative medicine that keeps people healthy and helps the bottom line by providing cost-effective care. That’s why I am proud to stand here today in support of this effort and why I have been proud to support expansion of community based health care.

It’s also why I’ve worked to expand the federal Community Health Center Program. In 2002, working with my HELP committee colleagues, we passed the Health Care Safety Net Reauthorization Act, which authorized important programs, like CHC’s and expanded the number of services they could provide. And it’s why – working with the Bush Administration – I have used my position to on the Labor, Health, and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee to increase CHC funding by over 400 million dollars since 2000.

In Washington state, Community Health Centers like Sea Mar Community Health Center in Vancouver saw 531,000 patients last year.

But we can’t be satisfied with these past accomplishments, because there is so much more to do to make health care more affordable and more accessible. That’s why today is so important and that’s why I am working to increase the federal budget for Community Health Centers by $250 million next year.

So I’m excited about what we’re doing to improve health care – especially here in Clark County. I’m proud to be your partner on everything from health care and transportation, to economic development and channel deepening. You’ve shown that together we can turn things around. So Commissioner Morris let’s fire up the backhoe and break out the shovels because Southwest Washington deserves this new health center!