SCHOOL NURSES: Officials Look to Tobacco Settlement for More Funding
School nurses are pushing legislation that would set aside some of the state's tobacco settlement funds to pay for a credentialed nurse in every school. Assemblyman Dean Florez (D-Shafter), sponsor of AB 2171, recognized that the initiative "won't get close to the national recommended ratio of one nurse for every 750 general education students," but figured that "at least there would be someone on campus for emergencies," the Fresno Bee reports. Schools have struggled to find creative ways of paying for nurses. In the Fresno Unified School District, half of the 50 full-time positions are funded through the district budget, while the rest are paid for with patched-together grants from local, state and federal governments. Some districts with large segments of low-income children, such as Visalia Unified, also have tapped federal Title 1 money and Medi-Cal to pay for nurses. Under Medi-Cal rules, schools can bill the state for immunization screenings, lice screenings, vision and hearing tests and other health services provided to children eligible for Medi-Cal. Visalia Unified Student Support Services Coordinator Lucinda Mejdell-Awbrey said: "In our area, 30% of the children are in poverty. We're finding students with unmet health needs. We've even had kids come in on Monday morning with broken arms that haven't been taken care of. We're helping families access the medical system because some children don't even have a doctor." Elaine Beyer, director of health services for the Fresno Unified School District, said: "We've been very aggressive. I feel like we've done an outstanding job finding alternative funding. But we have tapped out those resources" (Kennedy, 5/14).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.