Seek to Maintain Funding for Improved School Health Services for State’s Children
Nurses, teachers, parents and students expected at the State House to
Protest devastating cuts in school health programs as part of Governor’s Budget
BOSTON, Mass. – While the health needs of Massachusetts’ students have grown increasingly complex, many thousands of students receive no, or inadequate, school health services. At the same time, Governor Romney has proposed elimination of the School Health Program in his FY’05 Budget. By discontinuing this successful program, school nurses will be laid off and thousands of children will no longer have access to needed nursing services which, in turn, will impact their ability to attend school.
To help address this problem, school nurses, parents, students and health care advocates will converge on the Massachusetts State House on Wednesday, March 24, 2004 from 8:30 – 11:30 am 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 and school nurse representatives who will attempt to educate legislators and demonstrate strong support for legislative efforts to reject the governor’s proposals and to reinstate the $12 million in funding that is needed to maintain the standard of care needed to service the growing population of students with mild to severe health needs. Among those speaking at the event will be Anthony Delmonaco, a 10-year-old 4th grader from Pembroke, who helped galvanize support for this issue with letters he wrote that were published in both the Boston Globe and Patriot Ledger detailing his fears of losing access to his school nurse, who helps him cope with his asthma.
In 1998, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health presented a plan to the House and Senate Ways and Means Committees for the expansion of school health services. In FY 2001 and 2002, the legislature responded by increasing funding for school health services. In 2003, the legislature rejected the governor’s first attempt to eliminate the successful Enhanced School Health program that funds school nurses in cities and towns with children lacking access to adequate health care.
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 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 to 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.
Members of the Massachusetts School Nursing Services Collaborative: American Diabetes Association, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Asthma & Allergy Foundation, American Cancer Society, Epilepsy Association of Massachusetts & Rhode Island, Health Care for All, Massachusetts Nurses Association, Massachusetts School Nurse Organization, Parents Alliance for Catholic Education, Partners for a Healthier Community