Legislation introduced by California Sen. Lois Wolk (D-Davis) to assist schools in taking a lead role in managing chronic childhood disease has became state law, with Wolk hoping that the new law will allow schools to hire more school nurses.
Wolk said that one of the main reasons for absenteeism is chronic illness. With an increase in the number of nurses in the state’s schools, attendance, graduation rates, and academic performance will be positively affected. This change will be especially important for children in California’s most needy districts, Wolk predicts.
The Davis Enterprise reports Senate Bill 276, which was signed by Governor Jerry Brown on Thursday, will allow school districts, County Offices of Education, and other Local Education Agency Medi-Cal providers (LEAs) to be reimbursed for services for all Medi-Cal-eligible students. The new law allows LEAs to be reimbursed for services such as health and mental health evaluations, medical transportation, nursing services, occupational therapy, physical therapy, physician services, mental health and counseling services, school health aide services, speech pathology services, audiology services, and targeted case management services.
“With more funding, schools can increase the services they provide and hire more school nurses,” Wolk said. “By enabling school districts and County of Offices of Education to seek reimbursement for services provided to all Medi-Cal-eligible students, this new law will help schools be more active in keeping their students healthy and ready to learn.”
Nationwide, the recommended ratio of school nurses to student enrollment is 1 to 750 healthy students. Data from the California Department of Education in 2013 showed that the ratio in California at that time was 1 to 2,640.
The Reporter published a statement from Kathy Ryan, President of the California School Nurses Organization, which sponsored the bill.
“We improve attendance by helping students manage chronic illness, administer medication and vaccines, and address health concerns that keep students at school more consistently and parents at work. We commend the Governor for signing this measure to improve access to school nurse services.”
Medi-Cal is California’s Medicaid health care program. It pays for a wide variety of services for children and adults with limited income and resources. Both state and federal taxes support Medi-Cal. Any California resident can apply for this program regardless of sex, race, religion, color, national origin, sexual orientation, marital status, age, disability, or veteran status. Benefits are continued for as long as the person enrolled meets the eligibility requirements.
Even the homeless can qualify to receive benefits from Medi-Cal. The grant for assisting the homeless comes from $12.5 million in The California Endowment funds and $12.5 million in federal funds.
Wolk was elected to the Senate in 2008 after a long career in the field of education. Wolk taught history, social studies, and French in 7th through 12th grades in public and private schools. In her five years in the government, she has authored 56 bills which have included legislation concerning flood protection, highway safety, state parks and recreation areas, and California’s water delivery and natural ecosystems.
School nursing in California is considered a highly specialized area of nursing which requires additional education and clinical preparation. In 1966, the College of Continuing Education, along with the Sacramento State School of Nursing, began offering the School Nurse Credential (SNC) program, which allows a registered nurse to practice within a public school setting.