School nurses positively impact students’ physical and mental well-being, reduce health disparities, improve academic performance and reduce costs to the Massachusetts healthcare system. School nurses are first responders in the event of an emergency; they administer medications for children with chronic illness and behavioral challenges; they ensure medical records are properly kept and ensure compliance with state health mandates such as collecting and maintaining immunization records.
Since 1993, the Massachusetts legislature has recognized the importance of school nurses and has included a line item for school health services for students in public and nonpublic schools in the state budget each year (DPH Line Item 4590-0250).
As more and more students with developmental and health problems are mainstreamed into our schools, student health needs have grown increasingly complex. There is an increased prevalence of children with severe allergies, asthma, diabetes, epilepsy, cancer and other chronic medical conditions enrolled in both public and nonpublic schools.
While public school districts have been able to build nursing staff into their school budgets, many nonpublic schools have been unable to adequately fund school health services and have only a part-time nurse or no nurse at all. Nonpublic schools serve some of the most vulnerable students including economically disadvantaged students, students with special needs, immigrant and first–generation students, and students who are English language learners – many of whom face barriers to health care.
Funding for nonpublic school students has decreased over recent years and was cut by 37% in 2018 by DPH. The total nonpublic school allocation across the state is $235,000. While 10% of students in Massachusetts attend nonpublic schools, these students receive less than 2% of the overall essential school health grant which is funded at $12M. The current funding that is awarded to each nonpublic school ranges from $1,675-$7,232 and is too little to be effective.
In December 2019, DPH has revised its school health services model and recently released an RFR for school health grants of $25K-$100K for non-public schools. Last budget cycle, Project Access successfully advocated for $1M for this line item across the state.
During this first year, the grants will be used for capacity building over a 4-month period (remainder of FY20). Allowable costs and activities during this period will include:
1) Evaluation of, purchase of, staff training on, and conversion of paper records to electronic health records.
2) Purchase of furnishings, computers, screening equipment, AEDs, or other needs for the school health office.
3) Evaluation of, purchase of, and staff training on health education curricula and purchase of consumable student materials.
4) Submission of medication administration applications to the SHS Unit.
5) Salary support for new or existing staff (school nurse(s)) to accomplish the above activities, conduct an initial needs assessment, review existing policies and protocols, work with parents to gather health information about students, or provide school health or related services.
Letters of intent are requested by January 9, 2020 (but not required) and the deadline for submissions is January 24, 2020 by 12:00PM.
Please see the link to the full RFR below:
Read the press release from the Pioneer Institute:
State DPH Continuers to Deny Private School Students Millions in School Nurse Services