State budget cuts hit community health centers

SPENCER, Okla. - State budget cuts and shortfalls are effecting patients at the Mary Mahoney clinic in Spencer.

The Community Healthcare Center estimates 58 percent of its patients don't have insurance. When funding is cut, services and jobs are lost.

Layoffs and cutbacks in hours at some of their dental clinics are happening now. Also, the clinic will implement an increase in the visit fee for patients, who might not have money to spare.

Community Health Centers, Inc. CEO Isabella Lawson said the centers plan to continue offering high-quality care, but she issued this statement to News 4 on Thursday saying, in part:

"The cost of providing care increases every year. Hopefully, the price increase will not deter anyone from seeking out and receiving the healthcare they need to live a healthy life."

As layoffs occur at the clinics in under-served and rural communities, it's not just the patients that suffer. The job losses also effect the whole area.

"Anytime you lose a healthcare provider, especially in a smaller community or an under-served community, it has a big impact on local businesses, as well," said Brent Wilborn of theĀ Oklahoma Primary Care Authority.

Wilborn said his member organizations are not just primary care. Mental health and family services suffer, too.

What can be done to remedy the problem, Wilborn said, is lawmakers need to work together for the 2019 budget.

"Is there an easy fix? I don't know that anything politically is easy, but there is room for bipartisan agreement," he said.