The Maine Sunday Telegram recently ran a story about community health centers across Maine, including Portland Community Health Center (“Community health clinics struggle with impact of MaineCare cuts,” Feb. 8).

The article focused on the struggles to provide the excellent health care services demanded of them as designated federally qualified health centers while serving greater numbers of patients who are uninsured, especially given reductions in MaineCare coverage.

Our response to these challenges is to explore every possible avenue of new and additional funding: state and federal funding, as well as private-sector support from foundations, businesses and individuals. We are also working aggressively to enroll more patients in Affordable Care Act insurance programs.

Portland Community Health Center was established in 2009, growing out of community leaders’ concerns about city residents who were facing a number of barriers to health care.

Representatives of city government, health care and social service organizations, and a wide range of community groups formed the planning committee. As is often true of collaborative efforts, getting Portland Community Health Center launched required many meetings and the voices of many interested parties.

Initially, the health center co-applied with the city of Portland for federal funding available to federally qualified health centers, which included funding to serve people experiencing homelessness.

To receive and maintain the federally qualified health center designation, Portland Community Health Center must serve an identified underserved area or population, offer a sliding fee scale, provide comprehensive services and have an ongoing quality assurance program.

The vision from the beginning was to provide fully integrated primary health care services to all members of the Portland community who had difficulty with access to such care.

As a federally qualified health center, Portland Community Health Center is required to have a majority of board members who are patients of record. Today, seven of our 13 board members are patients.

Federally qualified health centers are highly regulated, and as a “new” community health center, we received in-depth annual site visits from the Health Resources and Services Administration, our federal funder.

At our most recent site visit in 2014, once the transfer of patients from Health Care for the Homeless to Portland Community Health Center had been completed, we received excellent marks in all categories of performance, and we were cited for many “best practices” in the area of board governance and oversight.

In December, we were notified of the award of a three-year federal grant to provide primary health care to adults, children and families in Cumberland County, including those experiencing homelessness.

Let us make clear Portland Community Health Center’s short but mighty history, and our plans to keep on growing:

From the outset, the health center has been grounded in and led by the community. We’re proud to count an original member of the planning committee as an active board member today, as well as several other long-standing board members.

The Board of Directors holds the accountability for every decision made in terms of service provision, quality assurance, financial health and community relations. We are proud of our superb staff, from our CEO to our front-desk staff, but we know the buck stops with us.

Today, we serve 5,200 patients – 1,500 of whom identify as homeless – in four clinical sites in Portland. We work in multiple coalitions and collaborative groups to make the best possible use of limited health care resources for city residents, and we welcome more partners.

As Portland Community Health Center board member Joyce Racine recently told legislators at a gathering hosted by the Maine Primary Care Association:

“I was homeless through no fault of my own, in poor physical health from the effects of my low-paying job at a laundry company where I was required to stand all day and lift and carry heavy bags of laundry, and the entire staff at the health center couldn’t have been more welcoming … .

“When I first entered the Portland Community Health Center, I was greeted with a warm smile, a caring attitude and open arms by every health professional they had me see that very first day. It was the first place that gave me hope again …

“And this is how you would be treated if you walked through our doors seeking affordable, high-quality health care. As a board member, I have a voice and a say in the services provided at our Community Health Center … . I’ve never heard of that happening in health care before.”