("Letter to the Editor" published in the Danville Register & Bee on July 30, 2011)

To the editor:

At Piedmont Access to Health Services, also known as PATHS, every day we see patients come through our doors facing everything from strep throat to serious chronic diseases. And while their diseases and needs might differ, all of these people face a common challenge — health care costs are steadily rising.

Whether patients are insured or uninsured, the reality is that many still find themselves burdened by mounting medical costs, and the delicate balance of making ends meet for themselves and their families.

Across the nation, community health centers provide affordable primary and preventive care in underserved communities to more than 20 million people.

Here in Danville, we are dedicated to serving the local community with high-quality and cost-effective care, and providing access to patients regardless of ability to pay.

At our centers, we offer a discount prescription drug program that helps make health care more affordable. This program, called the 340B Program and open to all of our patients, helps uninsured patients save up to 60 percent off the cost of their prescriptions, simply by taking the prescription to one of our pharmacy partners. When our insured patients participate in the program, it allows us to serve even more patients who are unable to pay for care.

At PATHS, I see daily evidence of the impact our center has on the community and on the patients that we treat. Studies show that individuals who have access to community health centers are more likely to visit the doctor on a regular basis and are less likely to have unmet medical needs or visit the emergency room. In addition, while 21 percent of Americans avoid filling their prescriptions to save money, our patients can get their medications at reduced rates through services like our discount drug program, further preventing future health problems.

I want to recognize our dedicated care providers at PATHS for their hard work, thank our community partners for their support and encourage patients to take advantage of all we have to offer.