Nipomo nonprofit to use federal funds to help low-income students

bcuddy@thetribunenews.comDecember 31, 2012 

A Nipomo-based nonprofit that provides health care in southern San Luis Obispo County and northern Santa Barbara County was one of 31 around the state to share millions of dollars in federal funding in December.

Community Health Centers of the Central Coast, which describes itself as having “a special emphasis on the underserved,” received $500,000.

The grant is awarded under a “school-based health program” that serves districts with high populations of low income, farm worker, public housing, and homeless students and their families.

According to the CHC’s Gail Tutino, the money will go toward constructing a modular permanent structure in Santa Maria that will serve the four high schools of the Santa Maria Joint Union School District, as well as the elementary and junior high schools of the fast-growing Santa Maria Bonita School District, the majority of whose students come from very low income backgrounds.

The clinic will supplement the care provided by the existing school-based health center located on the campus of Santa Maria High School, Tutino added.

CHC, which has been in business since 1978, is a network of 25 health centers in the two counties.

It offers on-site, school-based primary care, nutrition, mental health, and dental services for 7 low-income, minority high schools.

It also offers mobile medical and dental services at schools.

The money became available through the Affordable Care Act. Across the state, $14.3 million was awarded in this round of grants. Since 2011, 70 school-based health grant programs in California have received more than $30 million, and nationally 520 such centers have received $189 million.

There are 200 school-based health centers in California serving more than 205,000 children, according to the Health Resources and Services Administration, which announced the grants. Forty more will open in 2013.

According to the HRSA, data show that the school-based centers help decrease absenteeism, reduce the number of emergency room visits, and “ensure quality and cost-effective care for children and adolescents.” The centers help provide access to primary, mental, and oral health care for school-aged children.

“School-based health centers are redefining the way we think about health care for kids and teens,” said Serena Clayton, executive director of the California School Health Centers Association.

“Health means getting kids preventive care, keeping them in school, and keeping them out of emergency rooms, jails, and unemployment lines,” she said.

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