Indiana commission calls for support to open more school-based health centers

From FOX 59

MUNCIE, Ind. – A state-level commission wants to see more health care services offered in Indiana schools.

The Governor’s Public Health Commission is calling on the state to support the development of school-based health centers, which offer more services than a nurse’s office typically does. The goal is to give more kids access to health care.

Many schools don’t offer these kinds of centers, but some hope to see that change.

“It’s right in their neighborhoods,” said Lee Ann Kwiatkowski, public education director for Muncie Community Schools. “They feel comfortable going into our schools.”

Two years ago, Kwiatkowski launched a school-based health center in her district to serve both students and families. She wanted to help make sure her students stay healthy, she said.

“It just helps the entire school community,” Kwiatkowski said.

Muncie Community Schools partnered with Meridian Health Services. Since then, Meridian has opened school-based health centers in three other school districts in East Central Indiana, and more are in the works, according to Lisa Suttle, regional vice president of clinical services for Meridian Health Services.

The centers have doctors, nurse practitioners and therapists who provide services like physicals, counseling and other health care needs, Suttle said.

“We get to keep the children in school but also get to provide that access in the school too as well where travel is not a concern,” Suttle said.

The visits are billed to the child’s insurance or Medicaid for those who qualify, Suttle said. Providers receive federal grant funding.

In its report issued earlier this month, the Governor’s Public Health Commission is urging the state to help school districts connect to local health care providers to open more of these centers.

Still, some school officials say funding can be an issue. Hamilton Heights School Corporation tried to open a health clinic a few years ago, but the plan ended when the provider’s grant funding fell through, according to superintendent Derek Arrowood.

“We want to be able to provide long-term feasibility, and if we can’t do that, then sometimes we are almost setting up our community for failure by providing some things and then taking them away,” Arrowood said.

Some of the school-based health centers in Indiana are offered through telehealth, according to the commission’s report.