The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) awarded $2 million in competitive federal grants to four sponsors of school-based health centers (SBHCs) in West Virginia to improve access to basic primary health care for school-aged children, many of whom have no other sources of care.
The SBHCC program awards funds to support expanded capacity of SBHCs and increase the availability, efficiency, and quality of care for children and adolescents. The funds are available for construction, renovation, and equipment needs.
West Virginia's federal legislators joined in congratulating the grant recipients on their efforts to expand services.
"Investing in our children's health is an investment in our nation's future, which is why I've always fought to improve access to health care for our children," said Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va..
"School-based health centers offer vital services to countless children, regardless of their parents' ability to pay. This award from the health reform law will help school-based health centers keep our kids healthy by providing much-needed access to preventive and primary care."
"Good health and education are the twin pillars of a productive life. Our state continues to wisely invest in healthy families by planting health services where they can grow the most, in our schools," said U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., a senior member of the Congressional Rural Health Caucus. "The easier it is to see a doctor or a nurse when you're sick, the quicker you will recover and save money to boot. Add wellness programs and preventive care to the mix, suddenly a whole community will grow healthier. The nation gets healthier, one town at a time, and health care costs go down. That is a sound federal investment."
"Investing in health facilities that provide students with basic health care needs including substance abuse counseling, nutrition education, disease education and mental health care - helps our children reach their fullest potential," Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said. "These funds help make sure our students receive the best education possible so that they can get good-paying jobs when they graduate."
Collectively, these four sponsors will open new health centers in Braxton, Doddridge, Hancock, Harrison, Lewis, Pocahontas and Upshur counties. Currently, none of these counties are served by a SBHC.
"We are very pleased with the announcement that we will be receiving additional HRSA funding for our school-based health center program," said Rick Simon, chief executive officer for Community Care of West Virginia, Inc. "We have made school-based health a real priority for our organization, and we feel confident that we can use this funding to improve the lives of so many children in these underserved counties."
School-based health centers are a cost-effective investment, proven to reduce inappropriate emergency room use, increase use of primary care, and reduce hospitalization rates, particularly for hard-to-reach populations.
West Virginia remains a national leader in school-based health. There are currently 75 SBHCs in the state, serving 94 schools in 28 counties. All but three are sponsored by federally qualified health centers, and with parental consent, all children can utilize the SBHC's services, regardless of their family's ability to pay.
"I think this is such a great use of federal dollars," said Bill Snider, chief executive officer of Ritchie Regional Health Center. "It's not something that money is spent on and forgotten about. It's creating a sustainable program, jobs, and services that will help people year after year." The West Virginia School-Based Health Assembly's president, Eric Ruf, echoed the sentiments,
"This is a great day for the many students in West Virginia that will be served by these centers," Ruf said.
Below is a list of the four West Virginia school-based health center sponsors and the amount they were awarded by this grant program:
- Community Care of West Virginia, Rock Cave, $500,000.
- Camden-on-Gauley Medical Center Inc., Camden On Gauley, $498,618.
- Ritchie County Primary Care Assoc. Inc., Harrisville, $500,000.
- CHANGE Inc., Weirton, $500,000.