Albany, New York (February 17, 2006): Hundreds of students, teachers and health care professionals from Brooklyn and statewide marched on the State Capitol this week to make their case for more state funding for school-based health centers (SBHCs). Senator Velmanette Montgomery (D-Montgomery), champion of their cause, pledged her support for a long overdue increase of $15 million for the centers and called on other state lawmakers to do the same.
"School-based health centers are vital community health providers that work on the front lines to bring comprehensive primary medical care and mental health services to children and adolescents in the school setting where they spend at least one-third of their day," Senator Montgomery said.
There are 189 SBHCs throughout New York State serving more than 200,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade. In New York City, 115 SBHCs provide care to 102,025 students. In Brooklyn alone, there are 31 centers serving 25,270 students. (The SBHC enrollment statistics are based on 2003-04 data compiled by the NYS Department of Health (DOH); the DOH does not have 2005 statistics available.)
Senator Montgomery pointed out that SBHCs are suffering huge financial losses due to steep increases in the number of children who are served and new clinics. In the last eight years, the number of centers has increased by 28 percent and visit volume surged by 85 percent. In contrast, however, state funding for core health and mental health services has remained flat at $9.8 million since 1994.
Last year, seven clinics were forced to close their doors. In 2006, at least 60 new centers are expected to apply for funding. "The grim reality, however, is that the Governor's spending plan does not contain new money to establish these centers," the Senator said, adding that his budget will force new centers to be funded by reducing or eliminate existing ones.
The funding increase, if approved, will provide a cost of living adjustment (COLA) for existing centers ($4 million); fill the financial gap due to the transfer of children from Child Health Plus (CHP) A to CHP B ($6 million); and fund new centers planned in 2006 ($5 million).
Among the services SBHCs routinely provide are immunizations; diagnosis, monitoring and management of chronic diseases such as diabetes and asthma; treatment of minor and more acute illnesses; obesity education and counseling; laboratory screenings (i.e., lead levels, anemia, HIV, STD, cervical cancer, sickle cell anemia); dental, hearing and vision screening; individual and/or group counseling on subjects such as alcohol and substance abuse, sexual abuse, "gang" intervention, family violence, suicide feelings and depression; health education; and physical exams for working papers and sports.
"The State has an obligation to support SBHCs because they represent a most effective and efficient way to deliver medical care and mental health services to youth of all ages. They make good health sense," underscored Montgomery.
Senator Montgomery encourages New Yorkers to write and/or phone the Governor and legislative leaders to express their support for a $15 million increase for SBHCs. To obtain contact information and a sample letter, please call the Senator’s office at 718-643-6140.