Seek to Maintain Funding for Improved School Health Services for State’s Children
Hundreds of nurses, teachers and parents expected to flood State House to protest devastating cuts in school health programs as part of FY 04 Budget
BOSTON, Mass. — While the health needs of Massachusetts’ students have grown increasingly complex, many thousands of students receive inadequate, if any, school healthcare. At the same time, recent cuts in school health funding and deeper cuts planned under state budget proposals place Massachusetts school children in even greater jeopardy. To help address this problem, school nurses, parents, students and health care advocates will converge on the Massachusetts State House in Nurses Hall on Monday, April 28, 2003 from 9 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. for a School Health Advocacy Day.
The event, hosted by the School Nursing Services Collaborative, will feature a number of speakers including government officials, parents, school administrators, students and representatives from the healthcare community who will attempt to educate legislators and demonstrate strong support for legislative efforts to protect school health funding from possible budget cuts and increase state resources for school health and nursing service in more schools across the Commonwealth.
The School Nursing Collaborative is advocating for legislators to maintain the level and standard of care needed to service the growing population of students with mild to severe health needs.
In 1998, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health presented a report to the House and Senate Ways and Means Committees with a plan for the much-needed expansion of school health services. In FY 2000, 2001 and 2002, the legislature responded by increasing funding for school health services. In 2003, Governor Romney slashed funding for school health services. Among his cuts was the elimination of significant funding for the state’s highly successful Enhanced School Health program that funds school nurses in cities and towns with children lacking access to adequate health care. Today, school nurses across the state are receiving layoff notices; and school based clinics, in many communities the only source of health care for children, are threatened by these cuts as well.
School nurses provide a valuable social and health care safety net, particularly in tough economic times as school nurses are a primary source for poor or uninsured children to have access to health assessment. Also, in the wake of a worldwide SARS outbreak and growing concerns over bioterrorism, school nurses provide a readily available resource for early detection and rapid response in local communities to a public health emergency.
As early as 1992, a special commission relative to the practice of school nursing recognized the unmet needs of Massachusetts students and concluded, "Children attending schools in the Commonwealth today are faced not only with the usual and common infectious disease, they face the threat of other major health problems not always well understood by teachers, parents and the community. Special needs’ children integrated into classrooms of every town have significant health and nursing needs, including such things as catheterization, suctioning and the administration of complex treatments. The administration of medication and the monitoring of their effects, couple with the needs of children from dysfunctional families, further complicates the picture of school health."
According the Marcia Buckminster, Director of School Health Services for the Framingham Public Schools, the commission report accurately depicts the conditions in her schools, as well as schools throughout the state. "Within the last school year, our nurses have cared for acute, chronic and emergency health problems such as asthma, attention deficit disorder, migraine headaches, epilepsy, heart conditions, diabetes, life threatening allergies, arthritis and hemophilia. We have had students coming to school requiring colostomy care, intravenous medications, nasogastric feeding and other procedures."
School nurses are also required by law to conduct annual postural, hearing and vision screening tests on all students and monitor compliance with school immunization regulations. They also provide health education to students, teaching healthy lifestyles, as well as management of illnesses.