HSC Statement on Senate Support for School Health Services
June 16, 2022 | Written By: Healthy Schools Campaign
Update: The proposal described below was ultimately included in the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which was signed into law on June 25, 2022.
The Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday released draft language on youth mental health services that includes specific provisions for increasing access to school-based health services. This work builds on Healthy Schools Campaign’s recommendations for expanding and supporting school Medicaid programs.
The bipartisan proposal, which is part of a broader Senate Finance Committee effort on mental health, includes best practices identified by HSC’s Healthy Students, Promising Futures initiative and, in particular, the work of the state teams involved in the HSPF Learning Collaborative.
“I’m thrilled that we were able to turn our experience helping more than 20 states strengthen and improve Medicaid-funded school health services into recommendations that policymakers have incorporated,” said Rochelle Davis, HSC president and CEO.
“We are excited to see school Medicaid receive the attention and support it deserves,” added Davis. “Investments in school Medicaid will help support sustained and equitable access to the mental health services students need.”
HSC applauds the leadership of Senate Finance Committee members, including Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Tom Carper (D-DE), and their work addressing the importance of school health services and supporting mental healthcare in schools. While the text is “subject to change,” the school Medicaid component was carefully crafted, and HSC is optimistic that it will be part of the final bill.
Highlights of the proposal include the establishment of a technical assistance center to support states and school districts in expanding and strengthening their school Medicaid programs – and awarding $50 million in state grants to help them do so.
In addition, the draft language calls for developing:
• Updated guidance that supports the delivery of school health services – this would be the first update in more than 20 years.
• Strategies and tools to reduce administrative burdens and simplify billing for school districts.
• A comprehensive list of best practices that state Medicaid agencies and school districts are using to provide services for all Medicaid-enrolled students.
• Examples of the types of health providers that states may select as eligible to bill Medicaid for delivering school-based health services, and best practices for helping those providers enroll in Medicaid.
These initiatives build off more than a decade of work by HSC to identify sustainable and scalable resources that support schools in delivering essential health services. HSC has often cited updated guidance, a technical assistance center and clarity on Medicaid-eligible health providers and services as changes that would help more states move forward.
HSC advocated for the 2014 change to federal Medicaid policy allowing school districts to seek reimbursement for all school health services provided to all students enrolled in Medicaid, instead of limiting reimbursement to specific services under a student’s Individualized Education Plan, or IEP.
Because the shift in federal policy offered an opportunity, not a mandate, many states and school districts have not yet fully leveraged Medicaid benefits. The issue has become only more urgent amidst the growing youth mental health crisis and workforce shortage of mental health providers.
To learn more about Medicaid-eligible school health services and providers in every state, start with this interactive map developed by HSC.