New Federal Grants Mark Critical Opportunity for States to Expand School Health Services
February 01, 2024 | Written By: Alison Paxson
Photo by Allison Shelley for EDUimages
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recently announced it will award $50 million in state grants to help connect millions more children to essential school health services, including much-needed mental healthcare.
Drawing on student health investments in the 2022 Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA), the new grants will provide funding to bolster state and local infrastructure for the school Medicaid program — particularly for states poised to make changes to their Medicaid state plan that would allow schools to seek reimbursement for health services provided outside of an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP).
Twenty states will receive up to $2.5 million each over three years to implement, enhance and expand access to and funding for Medicaid-covered school health services. CMS will award 10 grants to states that have yet to expand school health services for all children enrolled in Medicaid or CHIP; the other 10 grants are intended for states that have taken initial steps toward expansion, with the hope that these states will work to further develop or refine their existing programs.
HSC hosted an informational webinar with CMS policy advisors and state advocates on the opportunities this funding presents. The full webinar and additional resources are publicly available.
“No matter where a state is in the process of expanding its school Medicaid program, these grants are a welcome catalyst for bringing together state partners, assessing current school health investments and ultimately increasing school health services for more kids,” said Jessie Mandle, Healthy Schools Campaign (HSC) national program director. “We are thrilled about the release of these grants and encourage all states to take advantage of this moment and this funding.”
As part of the grant announcement, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona released a joint letter to state governors encouraging states to apply. Grant applications are due March 25 and must be submitted by a state Medicaid agency, with the state education agency (SEA) as a required partner. An optional, nonbinding letter of intent is due Feb. 23.
States also are encouraged to collaborate with school districts (also known as local education agencies, LEAs) in the application process — a show of recognition of the important role education and health both play in the school Medicaid program.
“HSC champions coordination among state Medicaid and education agencies and LEAs to advance school Medicaid successfully, and we are so excited to see this level of collaboration and commitment from the departments of Education and Health and Human Services,” said Mandle.
The grants are designed to build state capacity to expand school health services. States must include planning time in their grant activities, which could include building state and local infrastructure to expand healthcare services and updating the state Medicaid plan to allow school reimbursement for an expanded list of Medicaid-covered health services and providers. Most states will need to submit a state plan amendment (SPA) to CMS for approval; the expansion grants could be used to develop and draft the SPA.
For more information about HSC’s work on school Medicaid, visit Healthy Students, Promising Futures.