PEORIA — Leaders at Heartland Health Services celebrated a last-minute funding-cliff rescue Friday morning.

The Peoria-based organization, alongside hundreds of other Federally Qualified Health Centers nationwide, was at risk of losing federal dollars without a renewal of the Community Health Centers Fund. Locally that would have meant the loss of $1.7 million, affecting some of the 22,000 individuals who use the organization's clinics and physicians, had Congress not reauthorized the spending.

"We provide quality care here, and we provide it for patients that a lot of doctors' offices aren't particularly happy to see," said Gregg Stoner, about the group's work primarily aiding those who are on Medicaid, Medicare or are otherwise self-paying patients, during a celebratory news conference Friday morning.

Heartland's board president, Sally Snyder, said the funding was crucial and that the organization is seeing continued demand.

"We need not only to do what they're doing, we need to expand because there are a whole lot more people needing care," she said, citing a particular need for treatment for new and expectant mothers.

And Heartland's work ultimately benefits taxpayers, said U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood, R-Peoria.

"We save taxpayer money in the long run," he said. "It is a small amount of money when you think about if it was not there and we sent people to emergency rooms."

Chris Kaergard can be reached at ckaergard@pjstar.com or 686-3255. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisKaergard.