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Area health care centers worried about future with budget concerns

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KINSTON, Lenoir County - Community health centers and clinics in our area serve thousands of people each year. But federal funding could play a big impact on the future of those establishments.

With a budget deadline in Washington approaching and no answers yet from lawmakers, center leaders in our area are worried about what the future holds.

Etta Wilson is at the Kinston Community Health Center for a dental appointment. With no insurance coverage, she said she relies on the center for her health care needs.

"I get like physicals, basically everything, dental, doctors and medication," Wilson said.

Wilson is one of 9,000 people the center serves each year in the Kinston and Lenoir County area alone. But the center's chief financial officer, Daphne Betts-Hemby, said an approaching deadline could impact their ability to serve those people. Currently, health centers through the U.S. partially rely on federal dollars called the Community Health Center Fund. It equals about 70 percent of the funding.

With a budget deadline approaching and no word from Congress on whether the funding will be renewed, Betts-Hemby said they are worried.

"It's really disturbing," Betts-Hemby said. "It would pretty much decimate community health centers as we know it.That 70 percent equates to nine million in the United States."

The deadline is Sept. 30 and while Betts-Hemby said they would not automatically close because of it, fewer patients would been seen and attended. The health center will likely end up operating on a month-to-month basis. Once it runs out of money, Betts-Hemby said they are on their own to figure it out from there.

For Wilson, she said any loss of access to low-cost health services would be devastating.

"I know not only me but it's a lot of family members, it's a lot of people that wouldn't be able to get services that they need."

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