Patient Numbers and Chronic Diseases Surge at America’s Nonprofit Clinics


The increasing pressure on America’s nonprofit community clinics and health centers was documented in a report released today by Direct Relief summarizing the most extensive data assembled on safety net providers who care for the country’s most vulnerable people.

Clinics and health centers have long been considered an essential component of the safety net of the healthcare system in the United States, providing primary care and referral services to the poor and uninsured.  This safety net is in danger as clinics — already reeling from a decline in government funding and donations — are struggling to meet overwhelming demand from new patients who have lost jobs and health insurance.

Direct Relief’s “State of the Safety Net” report summarizes national information about the activities at America’s nonprofit community-based clinics and health centers from 2006 to 2009. Collectively, these independently run nonprofit organizations operate over 8,000 community-based facilities in all 50 states for over 21 million people, of whom 38% lack health insurance and 71% of whom earn incomes of less than $22,000 a year for a family of four.

The key findings of the report conclude that the Safety Net Providers are seeing:

  • More Patients
  • Accelerating Demand
  • Increased Number of Uninsured Patients
  • More Patients with Chronic Conditions.
  • More Medicaid Patients Accessing Care at Clinics.

The findings were derived from a review of a vast amount of data, including federally audited data from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) related to FQHCs as well as surveys of more than 1,000 clinics and health centers in all 50 states that participate in Direct Relief USA’s program.

Direct Relief is the only U.S. nonprofit organization licensed to distribute prescription medications in all 50 states and provides donations of prescription medicine and medical supplies to help partner facilities provide care for low-income, uninsured patients.  It is the largest such nonprofit program in the U.S.

Thomas Tighe President and CEO of Direct Relief said, “For the first time, we now have a clearer picture of the growing pressures on the healthcare safety net.  The findings confirm what we hear in our daily interactions with the Direct Relief nonprofit clinic and health center partners throughout the nation – an increasing number of patients, more patients presenting with chronic conditions, and substantial strains on the providers.  As a result, Direct Relief has grown its support to U.S. clinics, and is now the largest provider of free medications and supplies to safety net.”

Full survey results are available here: 

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