(Seattle, WA) -- Today U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash) spoke at a gathering of community health care leaders in Seattle. Last week, Murray successfully restored a planned cut to a community health care initiative that would have impacted thousands of Washington state residents.

Attending the press conference were:

  • Susan Johnson, Director, King County Health Action Plan
  • Paula Holmes, Director of Odessa Brown Children's Clinic
  • Tom Trompeter, E.D., Community Health Centers of King County
  • Kristen West, E.D., CHOICE Regional Health Network (serving Thurston, Grays Harbor, Mason, Pacific, Lewis Counties)
  • Tom Jones, E.D., Community Choice PHCO Network (serving Chelan, Okanogan and Douglas Counties)
  • James Whitfield,Washington Health Foundation

Senator Murray's remarks follow:

"Thank you. (Susan Johnson, Dir. King Country Health Action plan)

Late last week the U.S. Senate debated legislation that has an immediate impact on everyone in this room.

Its official name is "The Fiscal Year 2003 Omnibus Appropriations bill." But don't let that long name fool you. It's a fancy way of saying "these are our government's priorities for this year."

While the bill includes important and necessary funding for homeland security, transportation, education, and other needs, it had eliminated funding for a program that touches the lives of thousands of children and families right here in Washington state.

The Community Access Program, known as CAP, helps working families and low income kids get the health care they need.

This community-based effort helps coordinate care for the uninsured - the working poor who might otherwise fall through the cracks.

It was difficult to understand why the President's budget eliminated a health care program at a time when the ranks of the uninsured continue to grow.

Here in Washington state, one in nine residents is uninsured. In fact, 156,000 Washingtonians have lost their health insurance in the last two years. And since we have an employer-based health care system in this country, when someone loses their job, they often suffer twice by also losing their health insurance.

Without a coordinated, community-based approach to care, the uninsured simply end up in the Emergency Room or go without care. Both results add to our growing health care crisis.

At a time when thousands of Washingtonians have lost their jobs and their health insurance, we simply cannot afford to put more families in jeopardy.

CAP helps people get the care they need in a clinic or doctor's office - instead of in the emergency room.

Here in Washington, we know first hand how successful this program has been.

Our state has four CAP grantees that have worked to expand access to quality, comprehensive care for those who have no health care safety net.

They're based in Spokane, Wenatchee, Olympia, and Seattle and we'll hear from some of them this morning, because they have traveled here to be with us.

As I've met with our CAP grantees, they've shown me a glimpse of the essential work they do in our communities.

For example, in October I visited the Odessa Brown Children's Clinic here in Seattle, which provides care to children up to 5 years old. I saw a doctor, a dentist, and a psychologist all in the same room - not just treating individual body parts - but treating the whole child in a comprehensive, compassionate way.

Today that project - known as "Kids Get Care" - is connecting more than 3,000 children to comprehensive healthcare.

These efforts are making a real difference for low-income families, and they need more investment.

We should be strengthening efforts like this -- not eliminating them.

But that's exactly what some in Washington, D.C. tried to do.

Late last week, I went to the floor of the Senate to speak out in support of community health care. I offered an amendment to restore the $120 million cut and to save the CAP program from extinction. It was an uphill battle. Since there is a new majority in Congress, they now run the show. Most of my Democratic colleagues who offered amendments saw them rejected.

But by working in a bipartisan fashion with my Republican colleagues, I was able to convince them that this was not the time to be cutting health care. And I am proud to say to you, that my amendment passed, and the CAP program will continue to provide federal support for this very effective community health care initiative.

Now that my amendment has passed, the overall budget will be considered during a joint House and Senate conference. We need to keep the pressure on to make sure that this critical effort is not cut out of the bill behind closed doors.

I will continue to work in Washington, D.C. to bring our Washington state priorities to the floor of the Senate to help give every child the opportunity to succeed.

I am so pleased to be here this morning with the men and women who are on the front lines of providing care here in Washington.

They put a human face on the work I do in Washington, D.C. on behalf of families throughout the state. And I am proud to be here with them today.

I would now like to introduce Paula Holmes, the Director of the Odessa Brown Children's Clinic here in Seattle."