Catch Them Before They Fall: School Based Health Centers and the Safety Net
Today’s post was written by Jesse White-Fresé, Executive Director CT Association of School Based Health Centers, Inc.
The Connecticut Association of School Based Health Centers applauds the Connecticut Health Foundation (CT Health) for its recent brief Health Inequities in Connecticut and the Vital Role of the Safety Net. School Based Health Centers (SBHC) are a vital piece of the safety net for children and adolescents – our most vulnerable citizens – because they provide primary care medical and behavioral health treatment services for youth right in their schools. Some SBHCs have dental services on site as well. Young people bring all of their issues to school, and the SBHC staff works with families, the school, and community resources to meet those needs.
Why School Based Health?
Students enrolled in SBHCs are served whether they are insured or uninsured; they can access the care when they need it right in the safety and comfort of their school. As stated by a nurse practitioner that works in an SBHC, “no other health care provider can compete with our ability to address the issue of access and follow-up. We are where the kids are, and can follow-up by seeking out the student right in the building.”
SBHCs strive to create an open, nonjudgmental climate that welcomes all students and provides an atmosphere of confidentiality and trust. In fact, that’s what students like most about their health centers – that feeling of safety from a trusted adult that understands what they need.
How do School Based Health Centers advance health equity?
- All students are served in the SBHC regardless of their insurance status and there are no out of pocket costs; payment is not a barrier
- All students receive the same high quality care in their SBHC. They may seek care for problems with asthma, struggles in relationships, anger issues, or difficulty controlling their diabetes
- SBHC providers help students build on their strengths, learn new coping skills, and manage their health issues
- Young men of color that use SBHC mental health services tell us that the clinicians treat them with respect, listen to their problems, provide solutions, and are culturally aware. In Connecticut’s SBHCs, African-American and Latino adolescent male students utilize mental health services at an average of 13 visits per student in the SBHC—which is unrivaled for this population in other community based mental health care settings.¹ More in our brief.
- Use of SBHC services has been shown to improve academic achievement, increase graduation rates, and ensure that young people are healthy so they can achieve at their fullest potential.
Our young people face many stressors that impact their health. School based health centers are one important solution that supports students, families, and schools. In our safety net, we want to catch them before they fall and help them reach their dreams – our young people deserve nothing less.CASBHC encourages policy makers, advocates, and parents of children who benefit from SBHCs to remember that SBHCs are part of Connecticut’s health care safety net and, by extension, a vital part of the solution for health equity. We must ensure SBHCs are resourced in order to best serve our youth.
¹Issue Brief: “Connecticut School Based Health Centers Engage Adolescent African-American and Latino Males in Mental Health Services”, CASBHC, 2012.