California State Superintendent Tom Torlakson and 18 superintendents from school districts across the state – including Riverbank School District Superintendent Dr. Daryl Camp ? joined the California School Health Centers Association and the National Assembly on School-Based Health Care (NASBHC) in urging Congress to appropriate funding for school-based health centers nationally. Nearly 75 state and district school superintendents, principals, and other school officials from across the nation added their voices to the call as well.
The letter from Torlakson and California superintendents, sent to Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Congressman Jack Kingston (R-GA), chairmen of the Appropriations Subcommittees on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies in their respective chambers, calls for the inclusion of $50 million in operations funding in the fiscal year (FY) 2014 budget. The funding, authorized through the Affordable Care Act (ACA), has yet to be allocated and was not included in President Obama’s FY14 budget.
Nearly 2,000 SBHCs serve approximately 2 million children by providing primary health care, mental health care and counseling, family outreach, and chronic illness management.
“SBHCs serve as a vital access point for primary and mental health care for students who otherwise would go without,” wrote the group of education and health care experts. “Studies demonstrate that adolescents are far more likely to come to SBHCs for mental health services than to other community providers.”
This fact was underscored by research released in February by the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of Adolescent Health (OAH), which confirmed that adolescents prefer to use health care services in youth-friendly environments including in school-based clinics.
Children and youth across the nation face daunting health challenges: 20 percent will experience depression in their teen years; they will lose a collective 51 million school hours because of dental-related illness; and their risk for obesity has skyrocketed three-fold in the past 30 years. Operations funds could mean new mental health professionals, doctors, nurse practitioners, and oral health providers to address these alarming outcomes.
“Research confirms what we have seen with our own eyes; health disparities affect educational achievement,” the letter stated. “As Congress looks to strengthen our education and health care sectors, your committees can make a difference by supporting appropriations for the operations of school-based health centers.”