U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) joined 66 of his colleagues in the U.S. Senate in urging Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to reauthorize critical funding for community health centers.

There are 35 federally qualified health centers in Louisiana that served more than 375,000 patients last year.

“Millions of people across the country rely on community health centers to provide quality health care for individuals and families. These centers provide comprehensive medical services without courting controversy like Planned Parenthood does. Community health centers are vital to Louisiana families,” said Sen. Kennedy. “It is imperative that a two-year extension of funding for these centers be included in the government funding bill.”

In addition to Sen. Kennedy, the senators who signed on to the letter include: Roy Blunt (R. Mo.), Debbie Stabenow (MI.), Tammy Baldwin (Wis.), Michael Bennet (Colo.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Cory Booker (N.J.), John Boozman (Ark.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Maria Cantwell (Wash.), Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), Ben Cardin (Md.), Tom Carper (Del.), Bob Casey (Pa.), Bill Cassidy (La.), Thad Cochran (Miss.), Christopher Coons (Del.), Catherine Cortez Masto (Nev.), Mike Crapo (Idaho), Steve Daines (Mont.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Tammy Duckworth (Ill.), Dick Durbin (Ill.), Joni Ernst (Iowa), Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Deb Fischer (Neb.), Cory Gardner (Colo.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Kamala Harris (Calif.), Maggie Hassan (N.H.), Martin Heinrich (N.M.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Dean Heller (Nev.), Mazie Hirono (Hawaii), John Hoeven (N.D.), James Inhofe (Okla.), Johnny Isakson (Ga.), Doug Jones (Ala.), Tim Kaine (Va.), Angus King (Maine), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) Patrick Leahy (Vt.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Ed Markey (Mass.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Robert Menendez (N.J.), Jeff Merkley (Ore.), Jerry Moran (Kan.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Chris Murphy (Conn.), Bill Nelson (Fla.), Gary Peters (Mich.), Rob Portman (Ohio), Jack Reed (R.I.), James Risch (Idaho), Bernie Sanders (Vt.), Brian Schatz (Hawaii), Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), Tina Smith (Minn.), Jon Tester (Mont.), Thom Tillis (N.C.), Tom Udall (N.M.), Chris Van Hollen (Md.), Mark Warner (Va.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.), and Roger Wicker (Miss.).

In their Feb. 5 letter, they expressed their concern over funding for community health centers, which expired on Sept. 30, 2017.

The letter stated:

We strongly urge you to re-authorize this funding immediately.

Community health centers serve a vital function, providing affordable health care to our nation’s most vulnerable citizens. They provide quality medical, dental, vision and behavioral health care to more than 27 million patients, including 330,000 of our nation’s veterans and 8 million children, at over 10,000 sites nationwide. By offering preventative care, treating chronic conditions, and working to fight the opioid epidemic, community health centers are not only greatly improving the health and well-being of those they serve, they are also saving significant taxpayer dollars.

Without extension of the Community Health Center Fund (CHCF), community health centers will lose seventy percent of their funding. This will result in an estimated 2,800 site closures, the loss of 50,000 jobs, and approximately 9 million Americans losing access to their health care. Moreover, community health centers operate as small businesses and require a level of predictability to operate and respond to the needs of their communities. Since the expiration of the CHCF, community health centers have not been able to adequately plan for everything from staffing needs to securing loans for capital projects. In addition, the expiration of the National Health Service Corps and Teaching Health Centers Graduate Medical Education program threatens the ability of health centers to meet their workforce needs.

For more than fifty years, community health centers have experienced strong bipartisan support. In fact, twenty bipartisan senators co-sponsor legislation which reauthorizes funding not only for community health centers but also for the National Health Service Corps.

We look forward to working with you to reach a bipartisan agreement to fund the community health center program and enable our community health centers to continue providing high quality and affordable care to those in need.