Legislation authored by Senator Mark Ridley-Thomas establishing a grant program to expand school-based health centers was approved by the State Assembly. Senate Bill 564, the School Health Centers Expansion Act, builds upon an earlier Ridley-Thomas measure, AB 2560 that established a Public School Health Center Support Program to sustain and advance school health centers and provide guidance on starting new school health centers.
The grant program established by SB 564 will provide resources directly to communities to support both new and existing school health centers. California currently has more than 140 school health centers that provide a variety of care, including primary medical care, dental care, and mental health services. The Governor pledged last year to expand the number of school health centers to 500, and SB 564 is intended to provide a mechanism source to make this expansion possible.
“The health and well being of a child is vital to his or her ability to succeed in school,” said Senator Ridley-Thomas.
As families continue to struggle with affordable health care, many parents and guardians are relying on schools as their children’s health care safety net. These health centers are run by many different types of organizations including school districts, community clinics, hospitals, county health departments, and various non-profit organizations. These programs represent a powerful partnership between the health and education fields whose goal is to protect the well being of our children.
“There are an estimated 800,000 uninsured children in California,” said Ridley-Thomas. “The most effective and efficient way to reach these children is to provide services right there on their school campuses.”
These health centers rely on a patchwork of funding that includes some public health program funds, private donations, third-party reimbursements and in-kind support from schools and sponsors. The grant program in SB 564, in concert with the Public School Health Center Support Program established with last year’s legislation, marks the first effort to provide direct state assistance to these school health centers.
The grant program will only take effect if funds are made available in a future budget. Given California’s financial circumstances this year, funding was not possible, but putting a grant structure in place is an important first step.
California’s school health centers are located throughout the state in a variety of settings: 116 are located directly on school campuses, 18 are off campus but linked to one or more schools, and 6 are mobile vans that serve multiple schools. Of the school health centers located on school campuses, 49 are in elementary schools, 15 are in middle schools, 45 are in high schools, and 7 are on mixed-grade campuses.
With the Assembly vote of 43-31, SB 564 moves back to the Senate for a final concurrence vote before heading to the Governor’s desk for his signature.