Invest In A Healthier Learning Environment Through School-based Health Centers

By Dennis Archambault

The Detroit News endorsement of a proposal  by the School-Community Health Alliance of Michigan to increase Gov. Whitmer’s budget for schools to $25 million will help fiscally conservative legislators and their constituencies see the wisdom of investing in healthy learning environments.

Members of the Authority Health staff members and several other representatives of school-based health centers met with state legislators in Lansing on March 16 to discuss this proposal. While grateful that the governor include $11 million for this program in her 2022-23 proposed budget, proponents believe there is a need to grow and enhance these health centers throughout the state, especially in urban areas like Detroit. We would like the Legislature to include $25 million for school-based health centers.

These facilities comprehensive health centers are, for many children, their primary source of health care. They help promote vaccine compliance, as well as support health literacy and health promotion within the school and surrounding common.

One of our objectives was to help legislators understand that these are not the school clinics of the past where a registered nurse would provide minimal treatment. These are comprehensive primary care facilities.

Authority Health sponsors a school-based health center at Hope Academy, called Hope Family Health Center. It offers pediatric and adolescent primary care, immunizations, mental health, and other programs such as community vaccine events, a Hope health club, and health promotion activities. It is also a vehicle for enrolling adults in the Medicaid program> Hope health center staff reached over 400 residents in the neighboring Nardin Park area with this program since its dedication last summer.

Perhaps most important — having medical and psychological support for students creates a healthier environment for learning — fewer absences, better attention, and enhanced comprehension. A strong mind and body are critical in the development of our next generation of doers, thinkers, and leaders. Deb Brinson, interim executive director of the School-Community Health Alliance of Michigan noted that students need psychosocial support as well as primary care as we transition out of the pandemic.

School-based health centers are critical component of the health care safety net. Expansion of these programs will help create healthier kids.

Dennis Archambault is vice president of Public Affairs for Authority Health.

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