Community health centers in Boston and across the nation are vital in connecting communities of color with the care they need.

Today, one in seven patients get health care at a community health center. And with the surge of the omicron variant of the coronavirus impacting major hospitals, many are cutting back on hours and services, suspending non-critical surgeries, and losing burnt-out health care workers — leaving community health centers to pick up the slack and be the lifeline for many patients of color.

Local health center leaders told Callie Crossley on Basic Black they're working hard to manage access to health services — both virtually and in person — while continuing to help with COVID-19 prevention measures, such as vaccination.

"We've had to pivot almost on a daily basis to make sure we maintain the level of access the community requires," said Dr. Charles Anderson, president and CEO of the Dimock Center in Roxbury.

Gregory Wilmot, interim president and CEO of East Boston Neighborhood Health Center added that their community-based emergency department is able to take some of the pressure off of local hospitals like the Boston Medical Center and Massachusetts General Hospital.

Community health centers fill gaps in medical care that severely impact patients of color, and also focus on social determinants of health, including access to food and housing.

The pandemic has spurred community members to value and rely upon local health centers more than in the past.

"We serve the most vulnerable populations in our society. These are folks, in my community, who have literally just gotten off the airplane and need to be plugged into all kinds of systems," said Dr. Guy Fish, president and CEO of Greater Lawrence Family Health Center.

These community health center leaders said the pandemic has shone a light on the value of their facilities, and how they can play a key role in moving communities of color out of the darkest times of the pandemic and into a healthier tomorrow.

Watch "Community health centers: On the frontlines"

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