MTA president criticizes elimination of health care program for students

MTA President Catherine A. Boudreau is calling Gov. Mitt Romney's elimination of the state's highly successful Enhanced School Health Program, which helps 106 communities provide nurses in schools, "a shortsighted cut of an essential health care service that will put children's health at risk."  

"School nurses save tax dollars because they provide cost-effective early intervention for preventable but costly medical problems," said Boudreau.

Many families consider the school nurse as the first point of contact when their children have health problems.

Though the Romney Administration stated  "preventative programs like these have been de-emphasized" the reality is that eliminating preventive programs results in increased costs for taxpayers. For families without health insurance, the school nurse may be the sole source of care with the exception of the emergency room, which ends up costing the state much more in the long run.

In addition, these nurse provide a crucial link between families and local health care providers. 

Half of the $15.5 million in Enhanced School Health Service grants budgeted this year have already been distributed but Romney cut the remaining 40% of the funds that were scheduled to be distributed for the rest of this year. As a result of the reduction, most of the grant recipient schools are losing nursing positions. Six nurses in the Framingham Public Schools lost their jobs today.

"The number of children in the public schools with some form of health condition has increased tremendously in the past decade, due largely to better diagnosis and treatment of chronic conditions," said Kathy O'Neil, the program coordinator in Framingham, who has been laid off. "Many of these children have moderate to severe special health needs and are in the public schools today due to the availability of a school nurse."  

Some students have chronic health conditions that require regular attention and the administration and monitoring of medications. These conditions include asthma, severe allergies, attention deficit disorder, psychiatric disorders, epilepsy and diabetes.

More than 2,000 registered nurses work in public and private schools around the state. The following is a partial list of services provided by school nurses:

  • First aid for injuries and illness assessment.
  • Intervention for chronic health problems.
  • Physician referrals.
  • State-mandated screenings for immunizations, vision and hearing.
  • Maintenance of students' health records.
  • Administration of daily medication, as prescribed by private physician.
  • Medical liaison assistance for children with chronic or temporary disability.
  • Individual health education and health counseling for students, parents and staff.
  • Identification of environmentally sensitive students and staff.
  • Referral of students and staff to appropriate community health agencies.