The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on the health of low-income communities, particularly communities of color that have been marginalized by systemic racism and already suffer from inequitable distribution of resources.
The health crisis has also highlighted the critical role that schools play in providing
health services to students — and the significant deficits and disparities inherent in the current system.
Schools face many challenges in today’s environment, and school health personnel are even more critical to preserving the health and safety of students and teachers. In 2020 and 2021, Congress passed three stimulus bills that provided more than $190 billion for education. The funding to state and local education agencies represents a historic opportunity to support student and staff health and wellness.
Healthy Schools Campaign co-published two guidance documents detailing how education agencies can use COVID-relief funding for capacity building and infrastructure. These documents also address how to access additional funding streams, such as Medicaid, to ensure efforts initiated with federal funds are sustained.
“Restart & Recovery: Leveraging Federal COVID Relief Funding & Medicaid to Support Student & Staff Wellbeing & Connection” highlights how state education agencies can use Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds to support student and staff wellbeing and connection. It was developed by the Council for Chief State School Officers, Healthy Schools Campaign and National Center for School Mental Health.
“Advancing Student and Staff Health with COVID Relief Funding” highlights how school districts can use COVID-relief funding to support student and staff health. Developed by AASA, FutureEd, Healthy Schools Campaign and Kaiser Permanente, this guidance offers concrete steps school districts can take to make data-informed decisions about investing COVID-relief funding.
Delivery of School Health Services During School Building Closures
When the coronavirus forced the closure of school buildings in 2020, state and federal agencies implemented policy and regulatory adjustments to ensure school-based health providers could deliver services remotely, and that payment systems, including Medicaid, were in place for reimbursement. Administrative, technological and regulatory barriers were promptly identified and addressed on a state-by-state basis.
In March 2021, Healthy School Campaign’s published a policy brief analyzing the effectiveness of these changes: “Providing Health Services During School Closures: Lessons Learned + Recommendations for Action.”
Drawing upon HSC’s work with states in the Healthy Students, Promising Futures Learning Collaborative, the brief calls attention to the current patchwork delivery structure causing healthcare access disparities both among and within states. Many of the policy changes implemented, especially around telemedicine and parental consent, helped ensure quicker responses and minimized gaps in access to school-based healthcare. But much more needs to be done to support schools in these efforts.
The brief also offers extensive policy recommendations that state and federal agencies can implement to better support school health services now — and in preparation for building closures due to future public health emergencies and natural disasters.