by CEO Amy Behnke

Good morning and welcome to the Health Center Association of Nebraska 2021 Virtual Conference. I am Amy Behnke and I have had the honor of serving as HCAN’s CEO for the past six years. For those of you who may be new to your role, HCAN is Nebraska’s Primary Care Association and we conduct training, individualized technical assistance, and advocacy work for the seven health centers in our state. We are here to support you!

This year marks HCAN’s 10th Anniversary. Ten years ago, the health center patient population in Nebraska totaled just over 63,000. In 2020, that number was over 107,000. Since 2011, the health center footprint has grown to 7 health centers and over 70 service locations. Outreach and enrollment staff have educated nearly 500,000 Nebraskans on Marketplace and Medicaid coverage. You’ve expanded dental and behavioral health services, adopted telehealth, and brought health care directly to patients via mobile units. You employ over 1,000 Nebraskans and save the overall health care system $180 million a year. Nebraska health centers comprise one of the largest systems of primary health care in our state and deliver the highest quality health care among all health centers in the country. What you do is simply unrivaled.

As the COVID vaccine has become more readily available, you have once again answered the call; vaccinating nearly 50,000 Nebraskans, 68% of whom are of a racial or ethnic minority. You’ve taken vaccinations directly to the community and continue to be the trusted source to address vaccine hesitancy and misinformation.

And while COVID-19 is still with us for the foreseeable future, as you start to think about your work outside of COVID, we hope the lineup of speakers and exhibitors we have curated for you both reenergize you and spark new ideas.  Thank you for the gift of your time over the next two days and please don’t hesitate to let any member of the HCAN team know how we can continue to be of support.

Ten years ago we could have hardly imagined what would be endured by our patients, their families, and the health center family over the last 18 months. COVID-19 served as a stark reminder that there is a chasm when it comes to equitable access to health care in this country. The very foundation of this health center movement is rooted in civil rights and justice. And as we celebrate Pride month, recognize the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Massacre, and are just days away from Juneteenth, we know there is work yet to do.

As we move through 2021, Nebraska health centers will continue to serve their patients with compassion and a commitment to equitable access to health care for all.