Push for school health center funding

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – School-Based health centers are the primary care doctors for more than 200,000 students across New York, especially low-income students.

“Kids health is very important and it starts at school,” Momba Chia, Director of Public Health for Women and Children’s Hospital in Buffalo, said.

Chia oversees eight school-based health centers in Buffalo.

“They are in most cases the primary care home for most families that would not otherwise have access to preventable conditions, so preventable health care services.”

Starting next July, the school-based health centers will no longer be able to bill Medicaid directly. Instead, the money will be disbursed to Medicaid managed care health plans and the health centers will have to negotiate contracts and reimbursement rates. Officials fear this will drive up administrative costs and force some centers to close.

“If they are not successful in sustaining the funding they have now they most likely that they will have to start reducing their services or possibly close their doors,” Sarah Murphy, Executive Director of School-Based Health Alliance, said.

The Teacher’s Union, the school board association, and dozens of other health and education groups are calling on Governor Andrew Cuomo to sign legislation that would keep the 252 health centers open across the state.

“If we want to prevent high costs in health care the only way to do it is to begin to provide these services at the earliest phase in our children’s lives,” Assemblyman Felix Ortiz (D-Brooklyn) said.

The Governor’s office has not immediately responded yet for comment.

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