Kerry Hydash (left) is Board Chair and Amanda Pears Kelly is Executive Director of the new health center group Advocates for Community Health.

Health Centers Launch a New National Advocacy Group

Community health center leaders have created a new membership organization—Advocates for Community Health (ACH)—to influence federal health care policy and “drive a new vision for the role health centers can and should play in an evolving 21st century health care system.”

ACH Board Chair Kerry Hydash and Executive Director Amanda Pears Kelly told National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) CEO Tom Van Coverden and Board Chair Lathran Woodard about ACH’s launch in a June 1 letter.

“We are writing to you today to share our excitement about the work and opportunities that lay ahead, and in recognition of the key role you play in supporting health centers across the nation,” Hydash and Pears Kelly wrote. “As we begin our work at ACH we look forward to meeting with you to talk more about our goals and priorities and to explore areas of shared vision and action. Further, we look forward to exploring opportunities where we can collaborate on this vital work.”

Van Coverden thanked Hydash and Pears Kelly on June 3 for their letter of introduction and said NACHC is “interested in learning more about the ACH mission and priorities.”

“This is a critical time, and the opportunities for health centers are here right now,” he wrote. “I think we both agree, the last thing that decision-makers want to see is multiple messages, which espouse inconsistent views.”

“NACHC’s record unifying the many voices within the health center family has led to a massive expansion of the program since its inception,” a NACHC spokesperson told 340B Report. “We know that division and disparate messages to policymakers within a sector can be detrimental and weaken progress on key issues and hope that is not the case here. Regardless, NACHC will continue to maintain its leadership role to advance the health center movement.”

NACHC was founded in 1971, six years after the first neighborhood health centers opened as a Great Society demonstration program. NACHC has long been a leader and champion of the community health center movement. It also belongs to the 340B Coalition, the umbrella group for health care provider organizations whose members participate in 340B.

Hydash, CEO of Family HealthCare Network in California’s San Joaquin Valley, has served on NACHC’s legislative, agricultural worker, and rural health committees, and received NACHC’s Grassroots MVP Award in 2016. She serves on the board of Community Health Center Alliance for Patient Access, a group of 31 California health centers that opposes Gov. Gavin Newsom’s (D) currently stalled executive order to transfer state Medicaid (Medi-Cal) prescription drug benefits from Medi-Cal managed care to Medi-Cal fee for service.

Pears Kelly was NACHC’s Director of National Advocacy & Civic Engagement from 2013 and 2018. She currently is Executive Director of the Association of Clinicians for the Underserved, an association of current and former National Health Service Corps members.

ACH Board and Executive Committee member David Vliet is a former elected representative on NACHC’s board. Vliet is CEO of LifeLong Medical Care in Berkeley, Calif.

For federal tax purposes, NACHC is classified as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit tax-exempt educational organization. Contributions to these groups are deductible. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) says they may not attempt to influence legislation as a substantial part of their activities and may not participate in any campaign activity for or against political candidates.

ACH is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit tax-exempt social welfare organization. Contributions to 501(c)(4) groups are not deductible, but the groups do not have to disclose their donors. They may lobby to influence legislation germane to their programs, and may participate or intervene in political campaigns, provided that they do not spend more than half of their money on politics.

ACH told 340B Report it “will be mission driven and member-focused with a deep commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.” It said it is developing a long-term advocacy agenda with its members. In the short run, it said it will focus on

  • value-based payment
  • justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion in health care
  • 340B
  • influencing the Biden administration on COVID-19 and other immediate priorities
  • policy and funding that takes the size and scope of health centers into consideration.

“Every association brings a different focus,” ACH said. It said it will complement, not duplicate, other organizations’ work “based on the existing gaps and unmet needs that exist” among health centers.

ACH said it expects that “many of our members will belong to multiple state and national trade associations.”

“We look forward to partnering with any and all organizations that share our goals,” it said, including “corporate partners who are interested in supporting our agenda.”

ACH’s members include

  • Family HealthCare Network, Visalia, Calif.
  • East Boston Neighborhood Health Center, East Boston, Mass.
  • Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic, Yakima, Wash.
  • San Ysidro Health, San Diego, Calif.
  • Sun River Health, New York, N.Y.
  • LifeLong Medical Care, Berkeley, Calif.
  • Morris Heights Health Center, Bronx, N.Y.
  • Open Door Community Health Centers, Arcata, Calif.
  • Columbia Basin Health Association, Othello, Wash.

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