Northville Public Schools votes to seek funding for school-based health clinics ⋆
While efforts to open school-based health clinics were rejected last year by upscale districts in Grosse Pointe and Oxford, a similar plan will move forward in Northville Public Schools.
Northville Public School Trustee James Mazurek – Jan. 16, 2023
At a special meeting held Tuesday night, the Northville Public Schools (NPS) Board of Education voted 6-1 to to apply for a Child and Adolescent Health Center Program (CAHC) grant administered by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) for a health clinic at Hillside Middle School, as well as one at Northville High School that will be paid for by Michigan Medicine.
In making the pitch for the clinics, district officials cited the need for increased mental health services for students, referring to 2022 survey results that indicated more than 10% of NPS 11th graders had “seriously consider(ed) attempted suicide” in the last 12 months, adding that the “mental health crisis is real for this community as much as it is in other communities.”
The district’s proposal also noted that 8% of their students are considered “economically disadvantaged” adding that while Northville does not have a “significant need” there is “need within the community that we have committed to supporting.”
The proposal had originally been set for a vote on Jan. 9, but was adjourned for a week after several parents raised concerns about the type of services that the clinics would offer, specifically “testing and treatment for drug and substance abuse, sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy testing, and reproductive health and birth control education and referrals,” that state law allows teens ages 14 to 17 to receive without parental consent.
Many of those concerns came up again at Tuesday’s meeting, with parent Tammy Kane criticizing the board for a lack of communication about the proposal, before zeroing in on her main concern.
“A student can seek certain services without parental knowledge, taking healthcare responsibility away from their parents,” she said. “I realize that’s a law. But you can’t vote until you’re 18. You can’t drink until you’re 21. But you are inviting a clinic into our schools that allows very young children to make decisions without parental guidance.”
According to the Network for Public Health Law, while Michigan law requires parental consent for most medical care, teens between 14 and 17 are given autonomy when it comes to emergency contraception, outpatient mental health care, prenatal and pregnancy-related health care and substance use disorder services.
Another district parent, Brian Friedel, questioned the need for the clinics in a community like Northville.
“I think everybody needs to understand that these school-based health centers are nothing new. They’ve been in existence for over 30 years in our state,” he said, adding that they were designed to serve low-income communities where health care is hard to access.
Northville Public Schools parent Brian Friedel – Jan. 16, 2023
“Where are they located? All the high schools, the school-based health centers. So we got Taylor, Romulus, Inkster, Detroit, Pontiac, Flint, Saginaw, Lansing, Benton Harbor, Muskegon, Battle Creek, Jackson, Kalamazoo and Ypsilanti. … I wonder if anyone believes that we’re comparable in the community as far as that. I know those are disadvantaged areas, and that’s tragic, but that’s not the model.”
However, according to a fact sheet from the district, Northville is considered at-risk for issues of behavioral and mental health.
“Local, state, and national data supports that we are in a mental health crisis and access needs exist. This is a competitive grant so MDHHS determines who is awarded the grant. Northville would not be taking away resources from other communities and we have an opportunity to meet a need that exists within our community,” the document stated. “They [Michigan Medicine] heard us when we shared this collective concern about taking more than we need and they responded with this offer. We are still very much working out the details, but we feel that this will become a reality for our planning that meets NPS student health/wellness needs, the financial needs of our organization, AND addresses the thoughtful concerns expressed by a community of means.”
Another concern was the clinics becoming a conduit for information that parents may be opposed to their children having access to.
“I’m a little worried that maybe a group, perhaps like Planned Parenthood, might decide to put their literature in the clinic, or U of M might partner with a group such as that who has to do with the kids’ sexual health,” said parent Mary Cullen. “I’m just a little bit worried about how far the U of M tentacles go and who’s allowed into this clinic.”
Janet Tian, a senior at Northville High School, responded to that concern.
“If you’re an adult and you are actually really concerned about the confidentiality for your child, please feel free to not opt in,” said Tian. “But please don’t limit this option for others in different circumstances. Don’t take away this wonderful resource that will allow for even one child to get the adequate care they need.”
Tian acknowledged that everyone present shared the desire of wanting what was best for their children, but urged them to understand not everyone’s experiences was the same.
Northville High School Senior Janet Tian – Jan. 16, 2023
“It’s important to acknowledge that as adults, your ideas of what our schools look like, what we see, and what we need are different from reality,” she said. “We as the students have that unique perspective, and I know we lack experience, but I also know that on a fundamental level, my peers have a right to the resources they need and the privacy that comes with such.”
Both clinics would be staffed by Michigan Medicine and would provide a nurse practitioner, licensed social worker and medical assistant on a full-time basis, as well as a part-time medical doctor and dietitian. Vision and dental services would also be available.
The lone no vote came from Trustee Jim Mazurek, who said while there is no doubt that isolation of the pandemic had an adverse effect on the mental health of students, he wasn’t sure that a clinic primarily addressing physical health was the best way to address that issue.
“If we wanted to focus on mental health, I actually heard a lot of people here say, ‘That’s the right thing to do,’ I actually support that,” said Mazurek. “I think that’s a great idea, but let’s focus on a pure mental health piece of it.”
Speaking to that point on Tuesday was Amy Parravano Drummond, a district parent and clinical social worker who said positive mental health outcomes were connected to providing the full spectrum of health services.
“These centers allow for integrating mental health services with primary care, ensuring a holistic approach for students while by combining physical and mental health services, we address the interconnected nature of their overall health,” she said. “Early intervention is crucial in addressing mental health concerns and preventing them from escalating into more significant challenges.”
If approved, the grant would cover all of the startup costs including equipment, furniture and medical supplies, while NPS would fund sinks, a restroom and drywall for the two centers using $400,000 in what are called 31aa grant funding.
That money, $150 million in Fiscal Year 2023 and $328 million in Fiscal Year 2024, was allocated to districts on a per-pupil basis specifically for mental health services and school safety. NPS says its fund must be spent by June 2024. Michigan Medicine would be responsible for hiring and paying for the staff at both sites.
The Department of Health and Human Services, Lansing | Susan J. Demas
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, MDHHS issued a request for proposals to expand the CAHC Program to “public and non-profit entities such as local health departments, community health centers, community mental health agencies, federally qualified health centers, non-profit hospitals/health systems, school districts, federally recognized Michigan tribes, Urban Indian Health Clinic programs and other health care or social service organizations qualified to provide school-based or school-linked health care services.”
Applicants must demonstrate collaboration between the local school district, health care providers and sponsoring agencies in the application.
The four-month award begins June 1 and ends Sept. 30, with $4.46 million available and priority given to proposed sites in counties without a current, state funded CAHC clinical program model.
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authored by Jon King
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