Health Centers Receive Funding for Ongoing COVID-19 Response Efforts

April 09, 2020

Focus Remains on Providing High-Quality Primary and Preventive Care for Utah’s Communities

On April 8, 2020, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) awarded Utah’s 13 Community Health Centers more than $11 million as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act to assist with the ongoing response to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. The funding provides support to address the detection, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of COVID-19 while maintaining health center operations and staffing.

“Utah’s Community and Homeless Health Centers are extremely grateful for the quick response and support from Congress and HHS.  The funding received will help address the current pandemic while maintaining access to care for more than 168,000 patients state-wide, including more than 88,000 patients who are uninsured.” said Alan Pruhs, executive director at the Association for Utah Community Health (AUCH).  

The funding is critical for Utah’s health centers not only to meet the evolving clinical needs related to COVID-19 but maintain operations, staff, and the capacity to treat patients. Many health centers throughout the state experienced a 30-60 percent decrease in patient volume due to the pandemic. Despite this decline, they continue to provide a full range of essential medical services, in-person and virtually, including primary and preventive care, prenatal care, mental health services, substance use disorder treatment, and other services focused on keeping patients healthy. Following the guidelines of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Dental Association, health centers rescheduled some wellness visits to reduce unnecessary patient and staff exposure and are currently providing only emergency dental services. 

“Midtown, similar to our health center peers, plays an important role in caring for the underserved and vulnerable populations in the communities we serve,” said Alicia Martinez, executive director of Midtown Community Health Center “We understand the barriers and fears that prevent individuals from seeking care and respond by developing systems of equity for our patients. We also play an important role as an employer, and HHS funding will allow us to remain operationally viable while responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

A primary goal of the funding is ensuring health centers keep their doors open to continue to meet the unique health needs of Utah’s most vulnerable populations. In doing so, health centers expanded telehealth services to support virtual assessment and monitoring of COVID-19 symptoms, while keeping patients, staff, and the communities they serve as healthy and safe as possible. Telehealth services are used to provide virtual care for patients whose conditions can be adequately addressed without in-person contact. The health centers’ focus remains on keeping patients healthy and out of the emergency departments in this challenging time.

“Utah’s health centers have mobilized quickly to maintain and increase access to medical, dental, and behavioral health services via telehealth. Providing virtual care helps ensure the safety and well-being of patients and staff while maintaining access to care for everyone, with an emphasis on chronically ill and high-risk patients,” said Evan Christensen, executive director of Wayne Community Health Center and AUCH board president, “Health centers will continue to do their part to make sure patients remain healthy, so they do not end up hospitalized, placing additional burdens on already overwhelmed hospital systems.” 

If you are in need of medical care or mental health services, find the clinic nearest you. Health centers welcome all individuals, and accept Medicaid, Medicare, most health insurance plans, and sliding fee services for the uninsured. Many offer telehealth options that allow you to speak with a health care provider from the comfort of your home. Please contact the health center by phone for an assessment of your health concerns before going to the clinic.  

Utah’s 13 health center organizations operate 54 clinics in urban and rural communities and provide care to more than 168,000 people annually, making them critical to Utah’s health care delivery system.

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About Association for Utah Community Health

AUCH is a membership organization comprised of Utah’s health center organizations and allied safety-net clinics. 13 Utah health centers operate 54 clinics in urban and rural communities and provide care to more than 168,000 people annually. Health Centers provide comprehensive primary and preventive healthcare services including medical, behavioral health, vision, and pharmaceutical. In addition, they offer supportive services that provide education and promote access to healthcare, such as health insurance enrollment assistance. For more information about AUCH, please visit


Photo courtesy of Fourth Street Clinic.