U.S. Rep. Ashley Hinson, R-Iowa, today toured Crescent Community Health Center, which is precisely the type of provider she hopes will play a larger role in COVID-19 vaccination moving forward.
According to CEO Gary Collins, the Dubuque health center has administered vaccine doses to its own staff, as well as at least 200 doses to other area health care workers not affiliated with the larger hospitals or clinics. But Crescent staff members have made their plans to play a larger role in the process.
Hinson said that fits with her vision for future federal pandemic relief as well.
"The number one priority is how we can get that vaccine out," she said. "Talking to them about how that can be administered really effectively through their care models here, I’m very excited about that. When I look at the coverage area of the counties they draw in to serve, those are areas that they need access."
Hinson noted challenges accessing the vaccine in rural areas, low-income areas and places with transportation challenges.
"That’s where I see Crescent being a vital part in making sure we can get that to people who need it," she said. "I asked them for specific examples for patients, what that care has meant to them. As I’m going to bat for our federally qualified centers here in Iowa, I want to be able to say, 'Look, here are the actual patient outcomes. If people are following through and have this care model, it’s effective.'"
Collins said he was excited to hear on Tuesday of President Joe Biden's plan to begin sending vaccines directly to community health centers like Crescent — one in each state to start with, then 250 nationwide in the second phase.
"There's a very good chance that more than one of those will be in Iowa, and we hope one is us," he said. "We already serve the underserved. That’s broadly known across the country. And community health centers are working with more of those in AIDs community, farm workers, homeless populations, limited English proficiencies."
Hinson said she thinks the next phase of federal pandemic relief is still a couple of weeks out and that it will not be the last. She said her seat on the U.S. House of Representatives Budget Committee will play a bigger role in relief packages later in the year.
"It sounds like if not this package, next package, we’ll be able to offer amendments and actually engage more as a Budget Committee in that process," she said. "We all realize this is not over any time soon. Two months from now, six months from now, when we’re dealing with the next reconciliation package, I can come to the table with real data of what they saw in 2020 — they’re saying 750% increase in telehealth, through the health centers in Iowa."
Prior to her tour at Crescent, Hinson met with law enforcement officials in Jones County and economic development leaders in Jackson County.