School-Based Health Centers Could Close if Funding is Cut From State Budget

By: Jennifer Dowling Email
By: Jennifer Dowling Email

When patients like Erma Woods enter the Otto Community Health Center, they get the care they need right in their neighborhood school. Woods first came to the clinic in Otto Middle School in Lansing while she was working for the school. She says, "I had a real bad headache and I came down here to see the doctor and my blood pressure was so high, they had to send me to the hospital in an ambulance." She has been grateful for that care ever since and has remained a patient at the clinic although she is no longer employed at the school. Woods says, "It's very important to the community."

Now state budget cuts proposed in K-12 funding could wipe out school-based clinics across the state. Certified Family Nurse Practitioner Pam Markison is concerned for her patients the at Otto Community Health Center. She says, "There are not a lot of people in the area that have cars, they have to take CATA or walk, so if we're not here, it would be really heard for them to get to another provider."

Besides providing close care for adults, the kids benefit as well. They get care without missing school. Sometimes lifesaving information comes from those visits as well. Charge Nurse Dianne Ankley says that they discovered a tumor in a student. The Otto Community Health Center also provides a number of other services including; well child visits, primary care, sports physicals, immunizations, dispensing of daily medications, lab services, health promotion, counseling, referrals, home visits, HIV testing and chronic disease management.

Dr. Jason Forunier of the Ingham County Health Department says those clinics serve a population that really needs the help. He says in a school-based health center, the goal is to keep kids in the classroom. Otherwise, kids may be sent home inappropriately. He says they also help to monitor major chronic diseases like diabetes and asthma. He says if the program was eliminated at the state level as originally proposed, school-based programs would lose about $475,000 in funding in Ingham County alone. He says statewide budget cuts would impact about 250,000 children.

The services currently available at the Otto Community Health Center include residents who are uninsured, have Medicaid,McLaren or PHP, are enrolled in the Ingham Health Plan, are enrolled in the Barry-Eaton Health Plan A or are enrolled in the Mid-Michigan Health Plan with a 48906 zip code.

Phil Wilkinson, Interim Health Administrator for Otto Community Health Center, says "I believe that any time health care access is pinched off by finances, real people are denied care. We provide care at a very reasonable cost compared to folks going to the emergency room."

Erma Woods says, "I think it's unfair to poor people because we really depend on these clinics." She says, "I like coming here and this is a good clinic who cares about their patients and they care about their children, and they are really good people here."

Statewide the proposed cuts make up an estimated loss of 4.7 million dollars in School-Based Health Center funding.

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