Sen. Bellows introduces bill to fund School Based Health Centers
Sen. Shenna Bellows, D-Manchester, has introduced legislation to reinstate funding to School-Based Health Centers (SBHCs), which was eliminated by Governor LePage’s administration this summer.
In the biennial budget, $5 million was cut from the Fund for a Healthy Maine (FHM). Rather than spreading the cuts across programs funded by FHM to minimize impact on individual programs, the administration chose to completely eliminate funding for the SBHCs. Seven contacts totaling more than $1 million over two years were cancelled for 15 schools that operate in Readfield, Portland, Lewiston, Auburn, Calais, Bowdoin, Brewer and Norway.
“School-Based Health Centers do important work in our schools,” said Sen. Bellows. “They provide health care services to kids who would not receive that care without them. Eliminating these programs doesn’t make sense, from a fiscal perspective or from a public health perspective. I urge my colleagues in the Legislature to support the restoration of this funding to protect health care access in our public schools.”
SBHCs provide some basic medical care and do referrals to other providers. For students with Medicaid, they fill gaps in Medicaid’s coverage. Some of the centers also provide mental health counseling services, which are a critical component in battling teen depression and suicide.
The SBHCs were notified of the end of funding three weeks after the funding was cut off. Some schools are looking to fill funding gaps, at least in the short term, from the additional school funding appropriated in this summer’s biennial budget.
“Maranacook students have spoken up on behalf of their SBHC before,” said Sen. Bellows. “Now it is the Legislature’s turn to say that the SBHCs are a priority for us, too.”
In 2015, a Maranacook High School Senior wrote a letter to the editor of the Kennebec Journal on behalf of the school’s Student Health Advisory Committee, saying that without the school’s SBHC, “we risk seeing an increase in teen suicide, depression, increased absenteeism leading to higher school dropout rates, more sickness and higher treatment costs.”