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Primary Care Provider, Family Doctor – You’ll find one at Community Health

A lifelong resident of Vermont and a patient since childhood at Castleton Family Health Center (now Community Health Castleton), Mike Gardner understands the importance of accessible quality primary health care in Vermont.  Gardner joined Community Health in 2004 as chief financial officer, leveraging a degree in accounting and CPA credentials to provide the sound financial foundation for a health network that has grown to include seven practices and specialties in pediatrics, telehealth, pediatric dentistry and a full complement of medical, dental and behavioral health services. In 2022, Gardner was appointed Community Health’s chief executive officer.

When I was a kid,” Gardner said, ‘I would rely on my parents to take me to the doctor. There was a paper chart. Now, you have a nearly complete medical record available electronically.”

Gardner’s experience as a tenured financial professional in the field of health care, 18 years of experience as a member of the Community Health leadership team and roots as a Vermont native have cemented his mission to make quality primary care affordable and accessible.

“It involves pulling all of our services together and using our resources in the most prudent manner, making sure patients are getting the right care at the right time at the right place; making sure we aren’t duplicating anything or wasting resources,” Gardner said.

In 2021, Community Health providers saw 45,000 individual patients and generated over 180,000 encounters. The most recent service added is the care management program which includes over 30 care managers who work throughout the Community Health network from pediatrics to behavioral health. “We have resources that we provide for our patients even when they are not in the office seeing a provider,” Gardner said. “We have resources for patients to get help with referrals, medications, checking their blood pressure or blood sugar. We are being proactive,” he said.

This is National Health Centers Week. Vermont’s US Senator Bernie Sanders has been a longtime champion of community health centers, having secured $11 billion in the Affordable Care Act to expand and operate health centers across the country, including through 24 new health center sites in Vermont. “Amidst a dysfunctional health care system, community health centers play an enormously important role in ensuring that Vermonters get the primary care they need,” Sanders said. “Today, Vermont has the highest access rate in community health centers of any state in the country with almost one third of our state’s population — over 180,000 Vermonters — receiving their health care, dental care, mental health and low-cost prescription drugs at a community health center. That’s something all of us should be very proud of.”

Community Health Castleton is home to primary care and Express Care.

Sanders supported the large funding increase for FQHCs in the American Rescue Plan Act which resulted in $33.37 million dollars, the largest ever single investment in health centers in Vermont. In addition to the $33.37 million, Vermont’s community health centers also received over $6.9 million in funding through the American Rescue Plan to support health care construction and renovation projects.

Currently, community health centers, like Community Health, provide comprehensive care to over 29 million patients at more than 1,400 organizations in every state and territory. At community health centers, the focus is on primary care and addressing the gaps in health care in a way that considers the whole person, prevention and wellness to meet the evolving needs of the community.

Here is what makes community health centers so unique:

  • they provide much needed primary and preventive health care services
  • are nonprofit, consumer- and patient-driven
  • are focused on improving the health and well-being of the communities they serve
  • serve areas that need them most

PCP. FQHC. ACO. Insured. Uninsured. What does all this mean?

FQHC, federally qualified health center, is a community-based health care provider that receives funds from the federal HRSA Health Center Program to provide primary care services in underserved areas. As an FQHC, Community Health provides services to everyone, including walk-in care at two Express Care locations open seven days a week.

PCP, primary care provider. Primary care is the first place people go when they need care. Years ago, a family doctor or family practice was the equivalent. At Community Health, primary care goes well beyond your medical provider and includes dental, behavioral health, pediatric, geriatric, nursing home and managed care.  It’s called a “medical home,” because it’s a partnership of clinical specialists, families and community resources that emphasizes  the partnership between health care professionals and families.

ACO, accountable care organization. OneCare is Vermont’s accountable care organization. It’s a nonprofit that partners with health care providers around the state to transform the state’s health care system. OneCare doesn’t provide health care – instead, it brings health groups together to improve health care quality and stabilize costs by managing network performance, giving health care providers data and analytics, and paying for quality of care and improved population health.

Insured or uninsured.  Community Health serves all patients regardless of income or insurance status. Discounts for essential services are offered on a sliding fee scale basis adjusted for family size and income. Insurance navigators or patient outreach coordinators located at all Community Health practices assist with questions about insurance options.

CEO Mike Gardner reads to elementary school children.

Community Health, based in Rutland, is the largest of the 11 federally qualified health centers  in the state of Vermont and is a member of OneCare. Nationally, more than 1,200 FQHCs provide primary health care to one out of every 14 people. In Vermont, FQHCs provide care to approximately one in four Vermonters.

“Population health is a new aspect of primary care that was embedded in our approach to create clinical care pathways to better address the health care issues for our patients,” said Brad Berryhill, MD, Community Health’s Chief Medical Officer. “We focus on how to heighten the importance of prevention and wellness in our practices and in the lives of our patients.” Dr. Berryhil also emphasizes the importance of care management as “an integral aspect of preventive health care, with skilled clinical professionals assisting the most vulnerable populations with everything from helping maintain treatment schedules and medication to overcoming housing and food insecurity.” Community Health has dedicated care managers for primary, pediatric, nursing home and behavioral health care.

The Rutland area Community Health Needs Assessment, released in May 2021, highlights the most pressing health care issues in the community and emphasizes the importance of collaboration and community engagement. The areas of major concern highlighted in that report include mental health, childcare, the aging community and limited access to housing, food and technology. A united approach to addressing the areas of concern involve sharing of goals, data and systems of care.

Senator Sanders’ support for FQHCs like Community Health, has been steadfast. While the struggle continues to guarantee health care to all people as a human right, I will continue to do all that I can to support long-term, robust federal funding for community health centers,” he said.  “In recent years we have made significant progress but more needs to be done. “

Bradley Berryhill, MD, Community Health Chief Medical Officer

Community health centers save the health care system $24 billion annually in reduced emergency, hospital and specialty care costs. Supported by organizations like the Bi-State Primary Care Association, community health centers in Vermont and New Hampshire receive training and technical assistance to improve operational, clinical, financial and workforce recruiting services.

Take a few moments to consider the impact community health centers have had on the health care system and celebrate National Health Centers Week with us!

Follow this series every Friday, as we discuss primary care, value-based care and Community Health’s role in providing high quality health care services that include support groups and educational programs. Find out more about Community Health’s preventive programs and watch for our follow up stories about care management, telemedicine, Alzheimer’s support and behavioral health programs exclusive to Community Health.

At Community Health:

For more health and wellness news and information, visit

Community Health is Vermont’s largest Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), a network of primary care, pediatric, behavioral health, dental and pharmacy services with offices in Rutland, Brandon, Castleton, West Pawlet and Shoreham.

Community Dental offices are located in Rutland and Shoreham; Community Kids Dental is in Rutland; Community Health Pediatrics is in Rutland and Behavioral Health services are available at all locations. Community Health Express Care Centers, open 7 days a week, are located at the Rutland and Castleton Community Health Centers. For more information about Community Health, check our website

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