HHS awards first round of health reform grants for school-based health centers

The government on Thursday awarded $95 million in grants to help 278 school-based health centers across the country expand and provide more healthcare services to students, their families and their communities.

The healthcare reform law set aside $200 million for the grants for 2010 through 2013. House Republicans voted to defund the provision to cut down on government spending. 

Federal officials say Thursday's grant recipients serve about 790,000 patients and will be able to increase their capacity by more than 50 percent — serving another 440,000 patients — thanks to the awards. School-based programs, the government says, "improve the overall health and wellness of all children through health screenings, health promotion and disease prevention activities and enable children with acute or chronic illnesses to attend school."

Advocates praised the news.

"More than 350 applicants from around the nation applied for this much-needed federal funding, which will allow (school-based health centers) to switch over to electronic medical records, purchase dental equipment to provide oral health services, help build new clinics or expand or improve existing space, and more," Linda Juszczak, executive director of the National Assembly on School-Based Health Care, said in a statement. "These projects benefit whole communities by creating construction and renovation jobs. We hope members of Congress who question the value of the program will tour the (school-based health centers) in their communities to see the importance of these grants for children and their families."