Assemblymembers Jo Anne Simon & Robert Carroll Joined Families, Schools, and Nurses to Rally in Support of School Based Health Centers

Four centers facing closure were saved due to advocacy efforts

Brooklyn, NY – Assemblymembers Robert Carroll and Jo Anne Simon, and other elected officials, joined families, schools and school-based health care providers today for a rally in support of School Based Health Centers (SBHCs) in front of PS 146. Recent state budget cuts, a change to funding methodology, and an upcoming carve-in to Medicaid Managed Care has created underfunding to SBHCs. While four local centers had been slated to close, their sponsor SUNY Downstate Medical Center sent a letter on Monday that the centers would remain open. Rally attendees expressed support for SBHCs, thanks to SUNY Downstate for keeping them open for another year, and the need to ensure the long-term viability of the SBHCs.

In June, four school clinics in District 15 – (M.S. 51 William Alexander; Brooklyn New School and Brooklyn School for Collaborative Studies; P.S. 38 the Pacific School; and the School for International Studies and Digital Arts and Cinema Technology High School) received a letter from SUNY Downstate informing them that because state funding had been dramatically reduced, SUNY Downstate SBHCs were in jeopardy. SUNY Downstate later announced that they could no longer operate the SBHCs and would be closing them.

After weeks of advocacy from a coalition of administrators, parents, community leaders, labor unions and elected officials, SUNY Downstate has decided that it will continue to operate the four SBHCs next school year despite the budget cuts they received.

Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon said, “School Based Health Centers are a highly cost-effective method of delivering critical health care to children, including immunizations, management of chronic illnesses and mental health services. From asthma and diabetes to food allergies and anxiety, these clinics can provide the difference between life and death for many of our city’s schoolchildren. We are grateful that SUNY Downstate has stepped up for our children, but recognize the need to build a sustainable infrastructure for the clinics going forward. I applaud the successful efforts of the parents, school officials, advocates, and health care providers to keep the clinics open.”

“School Based Health Centers are a critical resource for our communities. I am relieved that SUNY Downstate has decided to keep these four health centers open for another year despite a cut in state funding. It is now our job as elected officials and advocates to make sure that these vital community resources receive their proper share of state funding,” said Assemblymember Robert Carroll. “I want to thank the parents, administrators and the New York State Nurses Association for being such tireless advocates for these school based health centers. Without their advocacy it is unlikely that we would be celebrating the SBHCs continued operation. “

“School-Based Health Centers provide vital healthcare services, including physical examinations and screenings, for a wide range of conditions to the most vulnerable children in New York City,” said Public Advocate Letitia James. “Children who would otherwise not have access to medical care are served through these centers and it is imperative that we keep them open. This temporary funding is a victory, but we must continue fighting to ensure there is a long-term plan for our children to access to this critical centers."

"Another year of SUNY's school-based health centers is great news, but with their long-term futures still on life support, it's crucial the push continues," said State Senator Daniel Squadron. "School-based health centers provide critical services, and between budget cuts and rules-changes, continue to be at risk. Thank you to SUNY, my colleagues, the New York School-Based Health Alliance, NYSNA, and the many healthcare workers serving at health centers across the city."

"I am so happy and relieved to learn that SUNY Downstate will be able to keep its School Based Health Centers (SBHCs) open! Our SBHCs provide comprehensive healthcare to thousands of children every year and the benefits cannot be touted enough. Happier, healthier children have better attendance, perform better academically and grow up to be healthy adults. Today we are celebrating but the long-term viability of our SBHCs is still at risk. This is not a fight we can afford to lose, especially with attacks on our healthcare from the federal level. Investing in our children’s health needs to be a priority every single year, not something that is subject to the whims of Albany politics," said Senator Velmanette Montgomery.

“Downstate SUNY’s school-based health centers have been saved for another year – which is fantastic news for the students in our local public schools, who depend on them for greatly needed treatment, regardless of their ability to pay,” said Council Member Brad Lander. “But their long-term future is still in the air, and we must continue our adamant support of these health centers, not just in our neighborhoods but across the city. Thanks to SUNY, the New York School-Based Health Alliance, NYSNA, our local school communities, and my colleagues for their organizing around this critical issue.”

Nicole Lanzillotto, Assistant Principal at School for International Studies said, “Over the last 13 years I have seen the impact our health clinic has on our student body. The mental and physical health care that our students receive enables them to flourish and thrive academically, socially and emotionally. As a community school it is imperative that we prioritize the well-being of our kids. I cannot think of a more important support system to have in place.”

“By providing these services immediately within the school building, students do not have to compromise their academic learning for their overall health, and students who normally would not have access to these services are able to receive them. The clinic at MS51 treats chronically ill students requiring mandated Section 504 services and responds to students in need of emergency medical care. In addition to our nurse practitioner, the clinic also provides a full-time social worker who cares for the social and emotional needs of many of our middle schoolers,” said Stephanie Hochman and Velma McKenzie, MS51 Co-Parent Association Presidents.

“My own son has both directly and indirectly benefited from on-site healthcare at his middle school. Aside from flu shots, he has benefited from being surrounded by healthier peers and fewer classroom disruptions. SBHCs just make schools better environments for everyone to be in! I look forward to the day when we are talking about the expansion of SBHCs to benefit all District 15 students, all Brooklyn students, and all New York City students,” said Antonia Ferraro, a CEC 15 council member, whose son attends MS 88.

"The New York School-Based Health Alliance is certainly glad to hear SUNY Downstate is able continue sponsorship of their Brooklyn school-based health centers for another year," said Sarah Murphy, executive director of NYSBHA. "This situation has highlighted the value of our centers to communities across the state, as well as the Alliance's dedication to their sustainability through the pursuit of our carve-out legislation and critical future funding for school-based health in New York."

The combination of a 20% cut in non-Medicaid funding in the 2017-18 State Budget ($3.9M), a May 2017 change by the State Department of Health to the funding methodology for the distribution of non-Medicaid funds, and a July 1, 2018 deadline to be carved-in to Medicaid Managed Care has created underfunding and instability to the SBHCs. According to a study by the Children’s Defense Fund, the Medicaid carve-in will reduce revenues to SBHCs by $16.3 million. Legislation was passed by the State Legislature to enact a permanent Medicaid Managed Carve-Out for SBHCs (A7866 /S6012). That bill awaits the Governor’s signature.

SBHCs provide free health services at schools and are an important safety-net for immigrants and the uninsured. 4,134 students attend the schools that are served by the four SBHCs, which receive several thousand medical visits each year, including preventive and primary care, reproductive health care, emergency care, mental health, and more.