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Ripon Advance: Rep. Upton ranks well-being of Michigan’s children among his ‘highest concerns’

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Washington, June 28, 2018 | Tom Wilbur (202-225-3761) | comments
Rep. Upton ranks well-being of Michigan’s children among his ‘highest concerns’
Ripon Advance
June 28, 2018 

With 127 school-based health centers (SBHCs) located throughout Michigan, U.S. Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) said he’s deeply aware of the critical role these clinics play in providing comprehensive primary health care services to medically underserved children.

“When children have this access to quality health care, they simply do better in school,” the congressman told The Ripon Advance during a recent interview.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) funds roughly 20 percent of the nation’s more than 2,300 SBHCs through the HRSA Health Center Program.

Students and their families rely on school-based health centers to meet their needs for a full range of age-appropriate health care services, the HRSA said, which usually include services such as primary medical care, mental and behavioral health care, dental services, health education, substance abuse counseling, case management, and nutrition education.

Students also may receive treatments for acute illnesses like the flu, chronic conditions (i.e. asthma and diabetes), and screening for dental, vision and hearing problems. SBHCs emphasize prevention, early intervention and risk reduction via counseling services that are provided on healthy habits and how to prevent injury, violence and other threats, according to HRSA.

The specific services provided by each SBHC vary depending on what the needs are in a local community, HRSA said. Most often, SBHCs operate as a partnership between a school and a community health organization, such as a community health center, hospital or local health department.

Currently, one of the largest needs in communities around the nation are services to help combat the ongoing opioid crisis.

On May 21, Rep. Upton was one of two Republican members who introduced the bipartisan School-Based Health Centers Reauthorization Act of 2018, H.R. 5899, which would reauthorize five years of federal funding for the nation’s SBHCs. The proposal is cosponsored by 14 Democrats.

In addition to reauthorizing the SBHC program that statutorily expired in 2014, Rep. Upton noted that H.R. 5899 would support “a much-needed service in the ongoing battle to combat the opioid crisis.”

Since SBHCs are often directly situated in schools, he said, they are in an excellent position to identify health concerns and provide the necessary help to those with addictions before they spiral out of control.

“SBHCs are primarily geared towards preventative and early intervention care,” said the congressman. “It’s extremely important that resources, personnel and care be available to children whenever and however they need it.”

Under existing law, SBHCs specifically are permitted to provide mental health and substance use disorder assessments, crisis intervention, counseling, treatment, and referral to a continuum of services as part of their core comprehensive primary health services.

At the same time, trauma-informed practices and programs are being utilized in many school districts and states to help students, teachers and school staff prepare and respond to emergency incidents, such as school shootings, suicides, gang violence, and drug overdoses.

According to the School-Community Health Alliance (SCHA) of Michigan, adolescents are 10 to 21 times more likely to visit Michigan SBHCs for mental health services than the community health network or health maintenance organizations.

And additional reports cited by the alliance “show that students who reported suicide attempts or depression were more willing to come into clinics and engage in counseling services,” Upton pointed out.
“SBHCs clearly do a lot to tackle mental health issues,” he said. “In fact, H.R. 5899 will continue to support and mandate the provision of mental health services for children in need.”

The congressman said that careful monitoring and education are important in making sure kids understand that help is available to them, and they are part of a strategy to ensure “we address potential mental health concerns.”

“I’m helping to lead the charge on this important, bipartisan bill because I want to continue our support for our nation’s children and help them succeed in every facet of life,” the lawmaker said. “By reauthorizing the SBHC program for 2018 to 2023, I’m aiming to continue crucial services.”

“The health and well-being of our nation’s children is one of my highest concerns,” he added.

Maintaining services

According to the SCHA of Michigan, which represents and supports school-based and school-linked health centers and programs, SBHCs also are located where families may struggle economically or geographically to access vital medical services.

In 2016, more than 200,000 children used Michigan SBHCs for mental health care, primary care and education services, according to the SCHA of Michigan.

In addition to providing mental health care services, SBHCs also are considered one of the most effective strategies for delivering preventive care services to the difficult-to-reach adolescent population, says the School-Based Health Alliance.

“Numerous evaluations have shown that SBHCs achieve marked improvements in adolescent health care access when compared with adolescent utilization in other settings,” the alliance said. “This is especially true for important services delivered on-site, such as family planning, screening and counseling for sexually transmitted diseases, mental health, and substance abuse services.”

In Upton’s home state, the five SBHCs in his district and 127 throughout Michigan face the potential challenge of service gaps, as well as the challenge of ensuring that a high level of medical care is continually provided, he said.

“With H.R. 5899, we are going to ensure that funding will be maintained for services currently in action and for future locations that may require a center be constructed,” Rep. Upton told The Ripon Advance.

Additionally, the bill would continue to ensure that any service provided will follow federal, state, and local laws, accordingly. “We will monitor centers to guarantee that they continue to serve kids that are most at risk,” he said.

Rep. Upton is a member of the Congressional Addiction, Treatment, and Recovery Caucus, which he said has informed his views and efforts around childhood and youth health as they relate to SBHCs.

“But more importantly than congressional caucuses,” he said, “the most important thing that has shaped my view, is actually being out in my communities talking to folks about this issue.”

H.R. 5899 is currently under consideration by the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee, on which Rep. Upton serves as a member.

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