For more than 55 years, health centers that make up the Health Center Program have filled a critical need in the safety net health care system in our country. Since it began in 1965 with just two health centers, the Health Center Program has grown into a national primary care network with nearly 1,400 health centers and more than 13,000 delivery sites serving nearly 30 million people a year in communities across the United States.
- Are community-based and patient-directed.
- Provide comprehensive, high-quality primary care and preventive services regardless of patients’ ability to pay.
- Employ inter-professional teams and patient-centric approaches.
- Provide care coordination and other enabling services that facilitate access to care.
- Collaborate with other providers or programs to improve access to care and community resources, such as those that address social determinants of health.
Health centers must comply with all Health Center Program requirements and other federal and state requirements.
On this page:
- Paths to Become a Health Center
- Health Center Program-Related Benefits
- Technical Assistance to Support Your Journey
- How to Apply
Paths to Become a Health Center
There are two paths into the Health Center Program:
A Health Center Program award recipient receives federal funding under section 330 of the Public Health Service (PHS) Act to provide comprehensive, culturally competent, quality primary health care services consistent with Health Center Program requirements.
There are two options to apply for Health Center Program funding, both of which are competitive funding opportunities:
- New Access Points (NAP):
- Funding to establish new sites to deliver comprehensive primary health care services in medically underserved areas or for medically underserved populations.
- Organizations that receive NAP funding become a Health Center Program award recipient.
- HRSA announces a NAP funding opportunity when Congress appropriates funding for expansion of the Health Center Program.
- Service Area Competition (SAC):
- Funding for continued comprehensive primary health care services in areas currently served by a Health Center Program award recipient.
- When a health center’s funding period is ending, the service area is announced for competition in the SAC funding opportunity (generally every 3 years).
Eligibility: Organizations eligible to apply for NAP or SAC include public or nonprofit organizations that provide comprehensive primary health care to underserved populations and operate in compliance with Health Center Program requirements. See the Eligibility section of the NAP or SAC notices of funding opportunity (NOFO) for more information.
Visit the Find Funding webpage to learn which, if either, funding opportunity is currently available. Sign up for the weekly Primary Health Care Digest newsletter to receive updates as funding opportunities are released.
A Health Center Program look-alike is a HRSA-designated health center that provides comprehensive, culturally competent, quality primary health care services consistent with Health Center Program requirements, like Health Center Program award recipients, but does not receive Health Center Program funding.
Look-alike initial designation (LAL ID) applications are accepted on a rolling basis and are not competitive.
Eligibility: Organizations eligible to apply for LAL ID include public or nonprofit organizations that provide comprehensive primary health care to underserved populations and operate in compliance with Health Center Program requirements. See the Eligibility section of the LAL ID application instructions for the full list of eligibility criteria.
Visit the Look-Alike technical assistance webpage for more information.
Health Center Program-Related Benefits
Health centers are eligible to apply for or receive the following benefits:
- Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) Prospective Payment System (PPS) reimbursement through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)
- HRSA’s 340B Drug Pricing Program for discounted drugs
- Free vaccines for uninsured and underinsured children through the Vaccines for Children Program
- Help with recruitment and retention of primary care providers through HRSA’s National Health Service Corps
- HRSA-supported training and technical assistance
HRSA-funded health centers also are eligible to apply for:
- Health Center Program supplemental funding opportunities
- Medical malpractice coverage under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA)
- Federal loan guarantees for capital improvements
Technical Assistance to Support Your Journey
Becoming part of the Health Center Program can be a challenging and significant commitment. These technical assistance (TA) resources will increase your understanding of what is required and support your journey into the Health Center Program
HRSA-Supported TA Providers
HRSA provides grants and cooperative agreements to national and regional organizations that address the training and technical assistance (T/TA) needs of health centers and organizations applying to join the Health Center Program.
- State and Regional Primary Care Associations
- National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC)
- So You Want to Start a Health Center (PDF - 1 MB), resource developed by NACHC with support from HRSA
- Other HRSA-supported national TA providers
- Health Center Resource Clearinghouse
Health Centers Near You
Collaboration with other health care providers in your community, including HRSA-funded health centers and look-alikes, to create a community-wide service delivery system and maximize access to care is a fundamental part of the Health Center Program. Use these tools to identify health centers near you to build connections: