Health Care Reform Funding for School-Based Health Centers Helps Keep Students in School and Learning – Say Ahhh! A Children’s Health Policy Blog

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By John Schlitt, National Assembly on School-Based Health Care (NASBHC)

Banner Health System and uninsured children in Phoenix,
Arizona recently received good news from the federal government.  Word came in December that Banner
was among a select number of programs across
the country
that competed successfully for Health Resources and Services
Administration’s (HRSA) federal school-based health care capital and
construction fund.   Banner
delivers free care to more than 3,000 students every year through its three
school-based health centers (SBHCs). 

The centerpiece of the $375,000 award is a mobile health
unit that will enable Banner to expand its outreach and services to additional
schools across the region’s medically underserved areas – and serve an
anticipated 2,000 school-aged children.  Students whose sole access to
health care has been through Banner’s pediatric emergency department will soon
be able to receive cost-effective prevention and wellness services directly on
school site. The funds will also support upgrades for equipment and health
information technology at their permanent school sites – including a server to
house 20 years of medical records.

The source of this capital fund is a little known
provision in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Section 4101(a))
that provided one-time funding for construction, renovation, and equipment for
SBHCs.  The grants were an
unqualified success for advocates who underscored to Congress the importance of
SBHCs as a key link for children in the nation’s health care safety net.  The first two rounds of grants –
awarded in July and December of 2011 and
totaling more than $109 million – were disbursed to 321 community and academic
health centers, hospitals, and public health departments across the

The money is being used to construct new and expanded
facilities, as well as to purchase mobile health units and specialized
equipment for telehealth and dental services in school settings. HRSA estimates that the capital
infusion will enable SBHC sites to expand their service capacity by 50%. 

In all, federal funds went to school health sites across
44 states, District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.  Grants ranged in size from $30,000 to $500,000, with an
average award of $346,000.  Banner
was one of five awards made to Arizona SBHC providers.  Top grant getters by state were
California (39 awards totaling $15.7M) and New York (38, $12.2M).  At the National Assembly on
School-Based Health Care (NASBHC)

we are particularly excited about the construction awards in Montana and
Wyoming – two states that will open their first SBHCs on account of the HRSA
grant program. 

We’re proud of the efforts that led to this success. SBHC
staff, advocates, and students from across the country worked tirelessly to
build support for the Affordable Care Act – including creating virtual tours of
their clinics, writing hundreds of letters, making thousands of phone calls,
and traveling to visit their Members of Congress. That SBHCs were included in
the legislation – and received this funding – is a credit to local advocacy,
strong national partnerships, and Congressional champions of school-based
health care.

Unfortunately, some in Congress have sought to end this
successful program. In May 2011, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1214, which would
revoke the unspent funds, by a 235-191 vote.  The Senate has shown no interest in taking up this bill, so
the funds ought to be safe until expended.

NASBHC will continue to work with advocates on the ground
and champions on Capitol Hill to ensure that the final round of capital funding
hits the ground in the spring. Across the country, organizations like Banner
Health are putting this grant to good use — sending mobile health units into
underserved communities, upgrading outdated equipment, adding additional exam
rooms so that they can see more patients, and more. 

To learn more about their work – including taking a
virtual tour of a SBHC and reading stories – you can visit

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