Amanda Pears Kelly, CEO of Advocates for Community Health (ACH), had a chance to talk about our inaugural Annual Meeting in Washington, DC with ACH Communications, Marketing & Membership Manager Rita Rey.

Rita: What were some highlights from the Annual Meeting?

It was a fantastic meeting. We were fortunate to bring together almost all our members for our first ever member meeting, which is such a great testament to our mission, especially when you consider we are not fully past the pandemic yet. There’s so much demand at the health center level, so taking time away from the health center itself to come together is quite special. When you are talking about our members, you’ve got representation from coast to coast. You’ve got San Ysidro coming from California, Lowell Community Health Center from Massachusetts, Cherokee Health Systems in Tennessee, and many more. We were also joined by some of the most important health policy leaders across agency administration. It was special that participants were able to have these very direct and one-on-one conversations. Our ACH members were appreciative for the opportunity.

Our member meeting focused on several health center policy priorities, especially health equity. How did we manage to get such high-level speakers to participate?

I think the reason we received that type of attendance is because the folks sitting at the ACH table are among some of the best and brightest health center leaders in the country. I know administration and congressional leaders see that. They’re really interested in engaging in how we can all work together in partnership to carry the health center program forward.

After these important discussions, where does ACH go from here?

We’re nearing 2 million patients being served by ACH members. Our members cover 12 states. Every time I talk to a health center organization, I hear the same response of excitement for the policy priorities ACH is taking on. The Annual Meeting featured true dialogue about health center operations, about a path forward, about the challenges large FQHCs are facing. What can we be doing to push innovation? Many ACH members are doing innovative work. How do we share this great work? There were lots of conversations with leaders on Capitol Hill around how we can put health centers at the center of the policies going forward. Incredible progress has been made.

Two important work groups were created during the member meeting. What are the goals for these working groups?

 ACH has several key policy priorities. Emergency preparedness and pandemic response. Workforce is another big one. But also, value-based care and the 340B program. Part of what ACH is doing as a membership organization is constantly connecting with our membership to be responsive to their needs. Value-based care and the 340B program are a couple areas that are just very in need of deep consideration, so we are convening small work groups composed of our health center leaders. They have volunteered to help drive the direction of ACH’s approach in addressing these policy priorities going forward. That’s everything from pursuing different policy options on Capitol Hill to working with different parts of federal state pillars. This is very representative of what ACH was designed to do, which is to address the needs of the organizations we’re working for.

What would you say to community health centers interested in learning more about ACH?

Our organizational membership has clear criteria to join. The most important thing about membership with ACH is alignment with the work that we are doing and the policy priorities. For those looking for more information, I would encourage you to reach out to me directly. We also have a great deal of information on our website. It would be ideal to put interested health centers in touch with existing ACH members, so that they can hear first-hand how valuable it is to become a member.

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