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A Unique Model of Care: Colorado’s School-Based Health Centers

About 29,000 Colorado children received health care services at one of 45 SBHCs during the 2010-11 school year, up from 27,500 the year before.

One of the lesser-known provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is the creation of a grant program to support the nation’s school-based health centers (SBHCs). Last year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced more than $2.5 million in grants to eight SBHC organizations in Colorado. The money will help the centers expand their capacity and improve their facilities.

We usually don’t think of health care as being co-located in educational settings, so what are SBHCs? They are collaborative efforts between a school district, a medical provider (such as a hospital or community health center) and a community. The clinics are on the school grounds of elementary, middle and high schools in a variety of rural and urban underserved areas.

According to the most recent survey of Colorado SBHCs, which was conducted jointly by CHI and the Colorado Association for School-Based Health Care (CASBHC), 29,000 Colorado children received health care services at one of 45 SBHCs during the 2010-11 school year, up from 27,500 the year before. Nearly half of the SBHC users (48 percent) were covered by Medicaid or Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+). About three in 10 (29 percent) were uninsured. This graph illustrates that more than half of visits to Colorado SBHCs were for primary care, though SBHCs provide a variety of behavioral health, dental and health education services as well.

CHI is in the process of analyzing data from the most recent survey (covering the 2011-12 school year) and results are anticipated to be available around the New Year. CHI will continue to monitor the effects of future actions on this unique component of the state’s health care safety net.