As I said when I received your "Hero of Health Care" award during National Health Center Week last August, when it comes to ensuring that care and treatment is available to every man, woman and child - be they documented or undocumented - you, our community health leaders and providers, are the real heroes.
Elizabeth Swain. Advocates.
On this Community Health Center Advocacy Day, I bring you the greetings of your State Assembly and the Chair of our Committee on Health, Assemblyman Dick Gottfried, who you will be hearing from a little later.
Chairman Gottfried, as you know, is a nationally recognized leader in public health policy and he is a true champion of community health centers. I hope you appreciate his expertise and his dedication as much as I and my Assembly Majority colleagues do.
I am pleased to see that the Lower Manhattan group is well represented here; Catherine Abbate from the Community Healthcare Network, and Barbara Minch from Ryan-NENA.
I understand that Betances, H.R.C., Charles B. Wang, and the Institute for Family Health may also have leaders and supporters here on this snowy Monday. It's always good to have some of my hometown heroes are here with me in Albany.
I and my Assembly Majority colleagues believe that it is a moral imperative of government to ensure that every man, woman and child can receive the health care they need, when they need it.
For this reason, we have long supported community-based care and we have worked in partnership with you to ensure the delivery of high quality outpatient care - wellness, preventive and home-care services especially - to under-served communities and to immigrant populations who shy away from large hospital settings.
Until recently, we have lacked the full complement of partners that we needed in Washington and here in Albany.
In 2007, the Assembly Majority began working with the Democratic administration here in Albany to make community-based health care the state priority it always should have been, and we achieved our long-pursued goal of expanding the State's Child Health Insurance Program to cover every child in the state.
Even now, when our State is facing a multi-billion-dollar budget gap, the Governor is continuing to advance our goal by striving to expand Family Health Plus, by increasing the funding available to community health centers, by drawing attention to education and prevention, and by making it easier for New Yorkers who depend upon publicly funded health care centers to obtain the coverage they need.
We support these initiatives and we are delighted to have a President who shares our commitment and who understands the importance, the value and the effectiveness of community-based health care.
Though we are finally on the right road when it comes to public health policy, we must face the hard truth that our economy is in crisis and it is growing worse every day.
As New Yorkers lose their jobs and the health benefits that came with them, more and more of our people will be turning to their local clinics to obtain the health care that they and their families will need.
Addressing this challenge will not be easy. Even with the federal stimulus, New York will still face a massive budget gap.
It is inevitable that we will need to make deep cuts. It is inevitable that we will need to raise additional revenues. It is inevitable that we will delay many of the core objectives we have been advancing as individual legislators, as a legislative body, as a government and as a state.
As we move to enact a fair, balanced and on-time budget, I assure you that we will not allow the cost of addressing this economic crisis to fall disproportionately on the backs of working families and those New Yorkers who rely upon government services.
Whatever sacrifices are needed will be shared sacrifices.
One more thing. Whatever tough choices we must make, our core objectives, our principles, will remain intact. We have worked too hard and fought too many battles to give up on our goal of health care for all New Yorkers.
Let's work together as we always have, to get New Yorkers through this period of fiscal crisis and uncertainty, and let's work with the Governor, with Senator Smith and the new Senate Majority, with President Obama, and with our partners in Congress to give every New Yorker the quality, affordable, accessible health care they need and more important, that they deserve.
Remember, my door - and the doors of my Assembly Majority colleagues - are always open to you. So, make the most of this, your Community Health Center Advocacy Day.
Thank you for being here and thank you for speaking for all of our fellow New Yorkers who depend upon their community health centers, but who could not be here to speak for themselves.