Recently, Congress passed the Fiscal Year 2022 Omnibus Appropriations package (H.R. 2471) and signed it into law by President Biden. The bill includes $30 million for school-based health centers within the Section 330 Health Centers program, a $25 million increase from Fiscal Year 2021. This is a historic investment in operations funding for school-based health centers (SBHCs).
This is a great victory for communities most impacted by the pandemic and the national School-Based Health Alliance that leads the policy/advocacy work for SBHCs at the federal level. For many years, EverThrive IL has supported this advocacy work at a local level by meeting with Illinois lawmakers, keeping them updated on this priority, and (before the pandemic) participated in advocacy days in Washington D.C.
This is the first time that the federal government has invested such a large amount of money in SBHC operations. Due to the population that SBHCs serve,they often need supplemental funds through grants to cover their operating costs. Grant funds to supplement billing will help ensure that SBHCs are financially able to continue providing essential care/services.
The fundingallows SBHCs sponsored by Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) to apply for funding support from the federal government for their operations. This grant will be open to SBHCs sponsored by FQHCs across the country. The increase in funding for SBHC operations can help address the most pressing needs that the school and community face – whether mental health, social determinants of health needs, or vaccinations, including COVID-19.
In Illinois, SBHCs can be found throughout the state in all settings – from Chicago to Rockford to Carbondale. “In rural communities, school-based health centers often serve as a critical health care access point for students and the entire community/county due to the lower number of places to access health care services,” said Kristen Nuyen, EverThrive IL’s Capacity Building Director. “Today, school-based health centers play a significant role within the school in supporting COVID-19 vaccination, testing, and linkage to follow-up care.”
How does this funding impact youth, especially after living through a pandemic?
Since the pandemic, school-based health centers have seen a huge increase in behavioral health needs in children and adolescents. Their mental health was impacted during critical stages of their lives. Many young, generally healthy people put off going to the doctor during the pandemic. This means that there is a lot of preventative health care that needs to be caught up on – from well-care visits to vaccinations, which the SBHCs can play a role in addressing.
“We’ve also seen a massive rise in social determinants of health needs, defined as the conditions in the environments where people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship, and age that affect a wide range of health,” said Kristen Nuyen. “This includes things like access to healthy foods and secure housing. SBHCs have been supporting students with addressing these needs, including linking families to supportive services and other community services to help families with material needs.”
The new funding will allow SBHCs to expand their behavioral health care operations to serve more students in Illinois’s urban, suburban, and rural areas. However, some SBHCs were not included in this funding cycle. EverThrive IL will continue working with the national School-Based Health Alliance to advocate for grant funds for SBHCs that FQHCs do not sponsor (e.g., those sponsored by hospitals, school districts, etc.). We will continue to advocate for this funding so that all SBHCs, regardless of sponsorship, can be eligible to receive operations funding through the federal government.