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Congressman Butterfield honored

WINDSOR – It was a surprise, but a pleasant one.

Having wrapped up his Jobs and Justice Tour – which included a stop in Bertie County for a town hall-style roundtable with his constituents – 1st District U.S. Congressman G.K. Butterfield was back in the county this week to receive some special recognition.

Butterfield was named as the 2017 recipient of the Defender Award, part of National Health Center Week in North Carolina and across the country.

The Defender Award, from the National Association of Community Health Centers, honors lawmakers for their support of community health organizations.

Butterfield was recognized for his active support of rural health centers within his district, and received the kudos at the Bertie County Rural Health Association (BCRHA) offices in Windsor.

“Health centers not only prevent illness and foster wellness in the most challenging populations, they produce innovative solutions to the most pressing health care issues in their communities,” said E. Benjamin Money, President and CEO of the North Carolina Community Health Center Association. “They reach beyond the walls of conventional medicine to address the factors that may cause sickness, such as lack of nutrition, mental illness, homelessness and opioid addiction. Because of their long record of success in innovation, managing health care costs, and reducing chronic disease, our health centers have a proud tradition of bipartisan support in Congress.”

Part of that bipartisan support this week has been through visits from not only Butterfield, but also Rep. Mark Meadows, as well as representatives from the offices of U.S. Senators Thom Tillis and Richard Burr at various health centers in North Carolina.

“When we passed the Affordable Care Act back in 2009 we had within the law a significant investment in (community health centers),” Butterfield said in accepting the award. “That includes a $12 million investment in rural health, and what you see here today is partly an outgrowth of that work we did back then. So I’m very delighted to be a part of the movement and I encourage you to keep doing what you’re doing.”

Butterfield said despite the pessimism that is emanating from Washington, the outlook for rural health centers is good.

“They’re on the right side of the debate because they deliver low-cost health care to underserved populations,” he added. “It takes the stress and burden off emergency rooms, it helps insurance companies reimbursement rates; so, when you combine all these factors together, even business-minded conservative Republicans can look at the bottom line and see that this is a good investment.”

Butterfield says he expects not just maintaining support from Congress, but even an increase.

“That’s what I’m going to fight for and what I believe will happen,” he stated.

The congressman encouraged working with rural health associations in order to reinforce the issue.

“They know how to get the job done,” he maintained, “and I want them to continue to be your voice in Raleigh and Washington.”

BCRHA CEO Shavonda Pugh and Board member Norman Cherry thanked Butterfield on behalf of the board and the local political leadership for advocating in Washington on behalf of rural health.

Also on hand were two beneficiaries of the Affordable Care Act who have worked through Bertie County Rural Health Association. They thanked the congressman and the local association for assisting in providing insurance options.

Butterfield said beyond reducing the costs of health care, there must be ways to make it more efficient.