Senator Libby tours Lewiston High School school-based health center
Senator Nate Libby, D-Lewiston, toured Lewiston High School’s school-based health center on Monday morning.
Kristy Gelinas, the Practice Manager of the Lewiston/Auburn SBHC & Outpatient Counseling facilities, invited Sen. Libby to visit the center after testifying on LD 1710, “An Act To Restore Maine’s School-based Health Centers,” at a recent public hearing before the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee.
“The challenges our school kids are facing today are daunting,” said Sen. Libby. “But I was so impressed to hear the relationships the counselors and staff have created with the student population so they can provide care in a welcoming setting and ensure students are successful in their academic careers. The care students receive there helps them stay in class, avoid costly and scary hospital trips, and learn how to navigate the health care system – a skill they aren’t necessarily learning at home.”
LD 1710 restores grant funding from the state to school-based health centers (SBHCs) around Maine, which the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) cut unexpectedly this summer.
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.
“These funds are a critical component of student health,” said Sen. Libby. “Without them, the LHS SBHC can’t serve as many students as before and students are putting privacy at risk when accessing needed services.”
The Lewiston School Committee was able to provide stop-gap funding for this year to keep the SBHC open, but students with private insurance now have to be billed for services which previously could have been provided at no cost. For students who may be afraid to speak to their parents about mental health for any reason – their parents may be abusive or simply struggling to afford basic necessities – this means going without.
LD 1710, which is sponsored by Rep. Jim Handy, D-Lewiston, is scheduled for a work session in the Health and Human Services Committee on Thursday.