Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Expanding School-Based Health Centers

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Expanding School-Based Health Centers

Article excerpt

Most people don't think of schools as a place to provide health care, but children and adolescents increasingly are getting everything from immunizations to mental health services at school-based health centers. The Affordable Care Act includes $200 million to fund major capital needs and expand services at SBHCs; more than half has been awarded so far.

There are more than 1,900 SBHCs across the country, according to the National Assembly on School-Based Health Care. Although the models vary, SBHCs are typically a partnership between the school and a community health organization. Most centers provide a combination of primary care, mental health care, chronic disease management, substance abuse counseling, dental health, nutrition, and general health education.

Dr. Peter D. Wallace, explains why these centers are important.

CLINICAL PSYCHIATRY NEWS: Why does the school-based health center model need to be expanded?

DR. WALLACE: We need to expand it because there is a core of students who, regardless of everything we try to do, just don't receive adequate health care. For some, it is being uninsured. For some, it's a perceived lack of access. For some, it's discomfort with the medical system in their community We know that students learn better when they are healthy. We've demonstrated that, when we have school-based clinics, there's less absenteeism. Parents are much more comfortable coming to a school that they are familiar with, that they know, rather than venturing out into what sometimes is a very foreign environment to them, especially if they don't speak English very well.

CPN: How do these centers support the work of physicians in the community?

DR. WALLACE: Most of these children don't have the financial resources to access health care adequately. In most communities, that lack of access to care is absorbed by local physicians or, in some cases, an academic center. What we're doing is spreading this out a little bit. We're not competing with private practice physicians. If there's a burden to care for a lot of uninsured or underinsured children, then SBHCs serve to take some of the pressure off of the private sector. In communities without SBHCs, hospitals and emergency departments tend to be the access point for these families. …

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