New Collaborative Will Expand Access to School Health Services

  • August 12, 2016
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States and school districts across the country are eager to take advantage of new opportunities for expanding access to and resources for school health services, including the reversal of the free care policy, but are looking for support and guidance on how to do it. On July 27, 10 teams representing nine states and Washington, D.C., gathered at the U.S. Department of Education (ED) to launch a learning collaborative to address this need.

ED, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), is convening this learning collaborative as a part of Healthy Students, Promising Futures. This is the first time a learning collaborative has been launched by ED, HHS and CMS to support school health and represents a critical step towards ensuring students across the country have increased access to school health services. Healthy Schools Campaign and Trust for America’s Health are playing key roles in supporting this learning collaborative and assisted with planning the July 27 launch and recruiting state teams to participate.

Many states and school districts have expressed a strong interest in leveraging changes in Medicaid policy, along with changes implemented by the Affordable Care Act, to expand access to school health services. However, states and school districts are struggling to determine how best to implement these changes. By bringing together state teams that are committed to expanding access to school health services, the learning collaborative will enable states to learn from one another and share the lessons learned from their work with others across the country.

Each participating state team includes representatives from their state Medicaid agency, state education agency and at least one school district. In addition, states were invited to include state-level partners, such as advocacy organizations, local philanthropy and stakeholder groups, on their teams. Bringing together this diverse group of stakeholders will help ensure strong support for this work moving forward, especially from state Medicaid and education decision makers. The ten teams participating in the learning collaborative are from California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, South Carolina and Tennessee.

The first meeting of the learning collaborative focused on developing state-level strategies for expanding access to school health services through Medicaid reimbursement. The framework for this conversation was based on HSC’s Stakeholder Guide to Implementing the Free Care Policy which provides concrete steps key decision makers and advocates can take to analyze their current school health services environment and identify opportunities for improving it. State teams walked through this framework and began to develop their own vision for expanding access to school health services and a strategy for supporting this vision.

In addition to the participating state teams, key national stakeholder organizations and advocacy groups participated in the meeting to provide support to state teams and strategize about how their organizations could support this work moving forward. Participating organizations included the National Alliance for Medicaid in Education, National Health Law Program, the National Association of Medicaid Directors, Community Catalyst, the National Association of School Nurses, the American Federation of Teachers and AASA: The School Superintendent’s Association.

This learning collaborative will continue to meet over the next two years in order to ensure states have the opportunity to learn from one another and strategize about how to overcome barriers they encounter. In addition, HSC and key national partners that participated in the July 27 meeting will provide ongoing support to state teams as they move this work forward in their states.

HSC looks forward to continuing to have an active role in supporting this learning collaborative and sharing the lessons learned from this work with stakeholders across the country. If you or your organization is interested in joining the learning collaborative, please contact Alex Mays via email or at 312-419-1810.