Getting more federal dollars for school health services

Getting more federal dollars for school health services

(Calif.) Lawmakers moved Wednesday to improve California’s traditionally lack luster record on getting federal funding to help support health care services delivered by schools.

AB 1322 by Assemblymen Marc Berman, D-Los Altos, and Patrick O’Donnell, D-Long Beach, would require the California Department of Education to establish an office to oversee and provide support for school-based health care programs.

The bill, which passed out of the Senate Education Committee, would require the CDE to have the office opened by July 2020 and to quickly begin to find opportunities for maximizing federal dollars for school health care programs.

“There is currently no institutional partnership between the Department of Health Care Services, which oversees Medi-Cal and the CDE to coordinate various health care programs and services delivered through schools,” Berman said at Wednesday’s committee hearing.

“With the expansion of eligibility for schools to receive federal funds, there’s an opportunity for a new office at the CDE to play a vital role in helping in the drawdown of federal dollars,” he said.

A major role schools play in the public health care system is to identify students who qualify for the Medi-Cal program and assist them and their families in signing up for benefits. Schools often are also direct providers of such services as physical and mental health evaluations and education; physical therapy; speech pathology and audiology services; as well as counseling services.

Although Medi-Cal is jointed funded by federal and state sources, it is the state’s Department of Health Services that oversees claim reimbursements for schools. There has also been long-standing tension between school health administrators and DHS over approval of school health care claims.

A 2015 audit found that DHS approved fewer than 10 percent of claims submitted.

According to the author’s office, California ranks among the lowest states nationally when it comes to federal funding for school health care services. In 2009-10, just 240,000 of the state’s 3.3 million students that were eligible for federal program support participated—resulting in an average of $159 per-student spending.

Of 32 states surveyed during the same period, the average federal spending per-student was $544—with Nebraska receiving nearly $800 per student.

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