School-based health centers struggle in wake of COVID
By Nikonie Brown, marketing administrative assistant, Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta
The shift to virtual school because of COVID-19 has caused a myriad of accessibility issues for students and their families. Schools are more than learning centers – they are hubs for food, technology and mental and physical health.
Georgia currently has 52 comprehensive school-based health centers – 22 in the Community Foundation’s 23-county service area – that have increased access to physical, mental and oral health for over 30,000 students and an equal number of family members and school staff.
The coronavirus pandemic has presented these centers with crippling challenges. 85% of centers report having some or all locations closed due to school building closures and 66% predict a revenue loss over 50%. While 94% have shifted to telehealth, that requires patients to have access to a device and connectivity, which is difficult for many of the most vulnerable patients that need the services the most. As schools reopen, 100% predict the need to expand mental health services to students in the face of stressors and trauma associated with the pandemic and civil unrest.*
PARTNERs for Equity in Child and Adolescent Health has launched the Georgia School Based Health Center (SBHC) COVID-19 Reopening Fund, which will provide payroll support to restore, maintain or expand center staffing. The Fund will support critical services throughout the pandemic and ensure that when schools are ready to open their doors, the centers are ready and available to focus on student well-being.
*Data gleaned from focus groups and surveys of center administrators conducted by PARTNERs.