Schools could offer or expand health care services under state contract

By: - June 6, 2022 12:19 pm
Backpacks hanging on hooks

The state is partnering with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to pay for the $1 million initiative. (Annmarie Timmins | New Hampshire Bulletin)

Citing a rise in youth mental health needs and a drop in medical checkups, the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services wants to establish or expand health clinics in some school districts. With parental or caregiver permission, students could receive immunizations, mental health counseling, physical exams, and health education at their school.

“Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an increased need for both health and behavioral health services for New Hampshire children,” said department spokesman Jake Leon in an email. “Many students have missed well child visits and immunizations, and many have experienced increased behavioral health symptoms and conditions. (Health and Human Services) is excited to offer this support for students and their families to meet their needs for a range of age-appropriate health care services.”

The selected provider(s) will be expected to respond to student mental health needs by screening for anxiety and depression, providing individual and group counseling, and intervening in a behavioral health crisis, according to the department’s request for providers.

Under the terms of the contract, the clinics must also offer physicals, first aid in an emergency, and medication management, among other health care. And clinics are expected to collaborate with family resource and community health centers, primary care offices, and community organizations to ensure students get referrals when necessary.

The state is partnering with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to pay for the $1 million initiative. A single provider had submitted an application for the contract by the May 24 deadline, according to the department’s website. Leon said he could not identify the applicant while the department is still evaluating contracts. 

The contract recipient(s) will decide which schools to partner with to either expand existing health services or establish a new program, Leon said. The department is considering only those providers that are already partnering with the state to provide maternal and health care in a primary care setting and those that have applied to do so. That includes many of the Federally Qualified Health Centers in New Hampshire, Leon said. 

“This opportunity for school-based health services builds on the success of previous partnerships between health care, public health, and education, and is designed to provide new opportunities for easier access to needed services where students learn,” Leon said. As with the department’s school-based COVID-19 vaccination clinics, students will receive health services only if their parent or caregiver has given permission.

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Annmarie Timmins
Annmarie Timmins

Senior reporter Annmarie Timmins is a New Hampshire native who covered state government, courts, and social justice issues for the Concord Monitor for 25 years. During her time with the Monitor, she won a Nieman Fellowship to study journalism and mental health courts at Harvard for a year. She has taught journalism at the University of New Hampshire and writing at the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications.