This month, The Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs (AMCHP) joins the School-Based Health Alliance in celebrating February as National School-Based Health Care Awareness Month. Across the country, school-based health center providers will join community partners, students, and families in advocacy and public awareness campaigns to highlight the critical services provided by these centers, and the urgent need to expand access to more students.
At present, approximately 3,000 school-based health centers nationwide provide primary, behavioral, dental, and vision care and other support services to children in poor and underserved urban, rural and suburban communities where they spend the majority of their time – at school. The Community Preventive Services Task Force (CPSTF), an independent, non-federal panel of public health and prevention experts established by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, recommends the implementation and maintenance of school-based health centers in low-income communities to improve education and health outcomes. Unfortunately, many vulnerable children do not have access to a school-based health center. While a majority of centers are located in Title I schools, at only 3,000 centers this evidence-based model is only available to a small fraction of the 23,000 Title I schools nationwide.
Although most school-based health centers are operated by an external medical sponsoring agency in partnership with the Local Education Agency, school-based health center providers are an integral part of the school health team and work closely with school nurses, psychologists, counselors, social workers, and other school health personnel, as well as school administrators. These critical roles have distinct yet complementary functions. For Title V, SBHCs are a mechanism for partnership to address several child and adolescent health priorities identified in the MCH block grants, such as strategies related to National Performance Measure (NPM) 8 (physical activity), NPM 9 (Bullying), NPM 10 (Adolescent Well-Visits), NPM 11 (Medical Home), and NPM 12 (Transition). In addition, SBHCs serve as the de facto medical home for children and youth if they are accessible via co-location on school campus or next to the school building. Furthermore, more SBHCs are offering a comprehensive set of services that are essential to healthy development, including mental health screening, preventive oral health services such as fluoride varnish, and even vision screening.
In their Fiscal Year 2022 appropriations bills, both the House and Senate have included historic levels of funding for school-based health centers. The House passed appropriations package, H.R. 4502, which includes a total of $50 million for school-based health centers and the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies has included a total of $60 million for school-based health centers in their FY22 bill. We strongly support the School-Based Health Alliance in their request of Congress to finalize the FY22 Appropriations process and adopt the Senate funding level of $60 million for school-based health centers in a final conference agreement.