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June 13, 2019

Rep. Pressley Demands Funding for School-Based Health Centers

WASHINGTON – Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) introduced an amendment to H.R. 2740, The Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies funding package, which funds some of the nation’s most critical programs that support individuals and families throughout their lifespan, from Early Head Start to Social Security. This robust appropriations bill for FY 2020 makes bold, forward-looking investments for hardworking families across the country.

Congresswoman Pressley’s amendment provides $5 million for funding School-Based Health Centers (SBHCs) in Fiscal Year 2020. This is the first time in recent history that Congress has appropriated discretionary funding for School-Based Health Centers. SBHCs provide preventive health care and health education to countless children and adolescents across the country in a manner that is high quality, cost-effective, and convenient. SBHCs serve as an essential part of our nation’s health care safety net and as a powerful tool for reducing health inequities.

Congresswoman Pressley’s amendment passed with strong bipartisan support and will be included in the final funding package.

Below are her remarks in support of her amendment, as prepared for delivery:

Madam Chair, a school nurse saved my life.

Throughout grade school, I was a frequent flyer at the nurse’s office. Not because anything was physically wrong with me, but because the nurse’s office was a place of refuge from the destabilizing, predatory abuse I was experiencing at the hands of people charged with my care. Instability, abuse, food insecurity, and violence are serious systemic issues that are significant barriers to learning.

Trauma is a barrier to learning.

According to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, more than 25% of American youth experience a serious traumatic event – such as sexual abuse, community violence, displacement – by their 16th birthday, and many children suffer multiple and repeated traumas. Health and education are inextricably linked. And it remains one of the greatest public health challenges of our time. As a Boston City Councilor, I fought for equitable access to school nurses in the Boston Public School system & as a member of congress, I plan to do the same.  My amendment provides $5 million dollars to fund high quality health care for children and young people in schools and to support school-based health centers — a critical safety net for our nation’s youth.

School-based health centers provide excellent, accessible, trusted health care and information for students. I firmly believe students who are present and healthy are best prepared and able to learn. That is true for children across my own district in the Massachusetts 7th and in all districts throughout our country.  

Today, nearly 4 million children are uninsured and lack access to necessary healthcare services. There are children living in poverty for who school-based health centers and nurses are their only source of accessible primary and mental health care. Rates of suicide, childhood chronic illness, and community gun violence are on the rise. This is a public health crisis and it is downright irresponsible for us to ignore it.

In addition to funding high quality and accessible healthcare, my amendment leverages the safety and convenience of neighborhood schools, like those across the Massachusetts 7th, to improve the health and wellbeing of students and help families access the quality health care they need.  School-based health centers provide comprehensive health care to children and young people in a setting that they trust, a setting that is familiar, and a setting that is accessible: their school.

There are young people like Sofia, a junior at a Boston Public High School whose visit to the school nurse revealed that she was depressed, suicidal and missing school. The proximity to the school nurse staff made her feel safe and listened to and helped her brainstorm ways to talk to her parents. Within the week she was in school-based counseling with the consent of her parents, as well as working to manage her assignments. Unfortunately, Sofia’s story isn’t unique. There are many students who struggle under the weight of mental health and trauma every day.

It was a former Surgeon General who once said, “We can’t educate children who are not healthy, and we can’t keep them healthy if they aren’t educated.” It is our moral imperative to support children in their health and wholeness. My amendment asks Congress to do the right thing, the smart thing and invest in school-based health centers to improve the health and wellbeing of our nation’s youth. 



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