Roswell school-based health centers worry about funding

February 11, 2011 • Local News

The administration for Roswell school district’s school-based health centers say they are worried its funding will be cut further since the state faces a budget shortfall of up to $400 million.

“We’re holding our breath along that line because there’s going to be a little give everywhere,” Linda Monk, the New Mexico Department of Health’s Director of Public Health for Southeastern New Mexico, said during an open house at the Mesa Middle School health center Thursday. “What that budget will be, we don’t know until the Legislature finalizes the budget.”

Health Coordinator Jeneva Dearing said the budget to operate the three school-based health centers in Roswell, located at Mesa Middle School and Roswell and Goddard high schools, was slashed during last year’s budget cuts from $165,000 to $160,000.

Dearing said the three centers provide a range of health services for students, parents and staff members of the Roswell Independent School District, regardless of their [auth] ability to pay.

She noted that of the 1,100 people who have visited the centers this school year, 27 percent did not have health insurance or Medicaid.

Even students are getting involved to fight for the health center’s funding.

MaryRuth Gedde, an eighth-grader at Mesa Middle School, marched to the state Roundhouse in Santa Fe two weeks ago with New Mexico Youth Alliance, a statewide advisory group comprised of youth representatives, to plead with lawmakers not to cut funding. Gedde met with Senate President Pro Tem Tim Jennings, D-Roswell, as well as other local representatives.

“The health clinic is important to our school,” Gedde, 13, said. “A bunch of people don’t have insurance at all. They don’t have any of that, so this is where they come if they’re sick. If they have a cold, this is where they come to not be sick anymore.”

Mireya Tarin, also a Mesa eighth-grader who attended the open house, said the schools’ athletes depend on the health centers for free physicals — she just got hers on Monday for soccer.

Nurse practitioner Kerry Peterson said the centers have provided 392 physicals this school year, as well as numerous lab tests for blood glucose, cholesterol, hemoglobin and urinalysis.
Peterson said the centers were indispensable in order to focus on children’s asthma and obesity.

“Those are two really big problems in our population,” she said.

Peterson also noted that the centers decrease student absenteeism by 50 percent and tardiness by 25 percent.

Delia Mendoza, mental health advocate for the DOH’s Office of School and Adolescent Health who attended Thursday’s open house, said in-school health centers support the education mission by keeping kids healthy so they can learn in the classroom.

“The services really support academic success,” Mendoza said. “That’s really one of the goals of the school-based health center is keeping the students healthy and in school so that they’re ready to learn and are being successful in school.”

Debbi Norris, a reading coach at Mesa Middle School, said at the open house that the school health center is her first choice for medical care. When she was bit by a brown recluse spider last November, she came to the center for treatment during school hours.

“It kept getting bigger and hurt more and hurt more and I was able to just walk right out and they were able to take me in, and walk right back in and do my job,” she said.

According to the non-profit New Mexico Alliance for School-Based Health Care, about 80 schools in the state provide health centers. The Roswell school-based health centers rely heavily on the Department of Health for funding, but also receive money from private grants and insurance billing.

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