Children’s Aid is lucky to have so many parents who are deeply engaged in their children’s well-being. Dozens of them trekked to the state capital last week—along with students and staff—for another successful advocacy day for school-based health centers (SBHCs). In partnership with the New York School-Based Health Alliance, we asked our state legislators to a) support Gov. Cuomo's $20.6 million budget for SBHCs, b) add $3.8 million to bring us to previous year's level of funding, and c) to extend the deadline for big changes to the way Medicaid treats services at SBHCs. We heard from SBHC champions like Assembly member Richard Gottfried and received immediate results from legislators who signed the Governor’s sign-on letter. We had two buses from Children’s Aid—one from Washington Heights with parents from MSC and SU Campus, and another one from Staten Island with Curtis High School students. All told, 60 activists made the trip, including 22 students, 29 parents, and 9 staff.
One mother, Maria Morales, explained the effect the SBHC has had in her child’s life due to severe asthma: “I consider it of vital importance to continue supporting the SBHCs for the great care that they offer our children and fighting for our community for a better life. I hope our legislators support this noble cause.”
One Curtis High School senior explained how she’s grateful to have an SBHC in her school. Prior to the SBHC opening two years ago, she was forced to miss school due to severe anxiety. She said, “Coming from a family who believes prayers will cure everything, I knew I needed more help. I went to the health center one day and since then my grades, attendance, and confidence have improved significantly. I wouldn’t be able to share my story if it wasn’t for the SBHC. Whenever my anxiety flares, which doesn’t happen as often anymore, I go to the health center, center myself for a period or two, then go right back to class. Before it was a call home and my mom had to pick me up from school.”
SBHCs are in danger of losing at least $16.3 million in funding when they are “carved-in” to the new Medicaid Managed Care. Our SBHC parents and students met with their district legislators, including Assembly member Guillermo Linares, a staffer on behalf of Senator Adriano Espaillat, Senator Gustavo Rivera, Assembly member Blake, a staff member on behalf of Senator Diane Savino, and a staff member on behalf of Assembly member Matthew Titone. Our advocates asked them to support Governor Cuomo’s proposed State Budget for 2016-2017. We also asked our legislators to permanently exclude mental health services from this new Medicaid program.
When the buses rumbled back to New York City, the people inside them knew they had done a good day’s work.