Community Health Centers proposed in Schuylkill County's VISION will host a series of community meetings to provide information and gain support for the development of a Community Health Center (CHC) that will provide primary care to disadvantaged and low income individuals and families.

These community meetings will provide an opportunity to present the progress of the Work Group for Community Health, to provide information on the possibilities and opportunities a Community Health Center might provide, and to seek support and direction from concerned citizens and health care consumers.

This initiative, in partnership with The Commonwealth Medical College (TCMC), has developed through a collaboration of over 40 community organizations, agencies and individuals convened by Schuylkill County's VISION. It includes the County's three hospitals, practicing physicians, church groups, public provider agencies and non-profit provider agencies. TCMC is a community-based, medical school established in 2009 to serve the health workforce needs of 16 counties in northeast and north central Pennsylvania.

"This is such an important partnership for The Commonwealth Medical College and Schuylkill County's VISION," stated Janet Townsend, MD, Chair, TCMC Department of Family, Community, and Rural Health. "The goal of the medical school is to improve access to quality healthcare to residents of all communities we serve in northeast and north central Pennsylvania through partnerships with communities to develop needed services and by training doctors to work in the region," Dr. Townsend continued.

These community meetings will serve as a call to action to Schuylkill County residents who are concerned about the health care system, the renewal of its medical workforce, and its ability to serve the needs of the county in these challenging economic times. The meetings will provide a clear description of Community Health Centers, or "Federally Qualified Health Centers" (FQHCs) as they are also called, and the advantages a new FQHC will bring to Schuylkill County. They will also provide an opportunity for residents to get involved with defining needs and setting priorities as the Health Center develops.

With the support of the Harry and Jeannette Weinberg Foundation, a non-profit corporation, Commonwealth Community Health and Education (CCH&E), has been specifically designed to meet the federal requirements for a Community Health Center to serve as the organizational entity for the Community Health Center. As the initiative proceeds, CCH&E will develop a Schuylkill County Board of Directors and submit a series of grant proposals to the state and federal agencies that oversee the development of these unique primary care programs. This partnership has been meeting since last February.

"These public meetings are an important part of the development of the Health Center," stated Kay Jones, Executive Director of Schuylkill County's VISION. "We want the people who will be served by the Center to have a say in the way it is designed to deliver healthcare. We need input on issues like location, hours of service, transportation and other factors that will determine if the Center will be of real service to the community. We hope that people will come to these meetings and have a voice in these decisions," she continued.

The public is invited to attend any or all of the following meetings: Nov. 16 in Pottsville at the Terry Reiley Center, 216 North 12th St.; Nov. 29 in Shenandoah at the Shenandoah Senior Community Center, 116 N. Main St.; Nov. 30 in Tamaqua at the Tamaqua Community Center, 223 Center St. All of the meetings are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.To RSVP for a particular meeting, or for more information, contact Kay Jones at (570) 622-6097.