Budget committee votes to fund school-based health centers
AUGUSTA — On Monday, the Legislature’s Appropriation and Financial Affairs Committee unanimously approved an essential spending package that included critical funding for school-based health centers.
The annual expenditure of $600,000 from the Fund for Healthy Maine restores grant funding from the state to school-based health centers (SBHCs) around Maine, which were unexpectedly cut by Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) last summer.
“Maine’s school-based health centers play a vital role in the health and well-being of our kids. At a time when more Maine kids dealing with issues like poverty, food insecurity, depression and trauma, we need to ensure they can access the care they need,” said Assistant Senate Democratic Leader Nate Libby of Lewiston. “I have seen firsthand the impact Lewiston’s school-based health center has had in our community, which is why I worked so hard to ensure that this legislation was included in the spending package.”
Last year’s biennial budget included $10 million in cuts to the Fund for a Healthy Maine. The bulk of funding for Maine’s school-based health clinics was provided through the Fund for a Healthy Maine as well as federal matching dollars through the Maternal Child Health Services Block Grant. As a result of those cuts, DHHS notified the clinics that they would lose Fund for a Healthy Maine funding, rather than cutting all programs a small percentage, as had been the previous practice. The loss of state dollars also eliminated the matching block grant funds.
Lawmakers will consider this spending package and remaining legislation should the Legislature reconvene for a special session. The Legislature can only return for a special session if a majority of lawmakers in each party agree to come back to Augusta.