Two School-based health centers may close if funding not secured

Nashville, TN- Two of the three Jane McEvoy School-Based Health Centers, run by Vanderbilt University School of Nursing’s Faculty Practice, could soon close unless additional funding is raised.

Funding for the center at Fall-Hamilton Elementary School was supported by the Bureau of Maternal Child Health, and in past years the center at Stratton Elementary School received partial funding from the Memorial Foundation, a local health care conversion foundation. But the money from both of those funds will be gone by the end of this school year. Fortunately, funding for Park Avenue Elementary School’s clinic, generated from a separate grant, will last for three more years.

Clare Sullivan, MSN, the nurse practitioner working at Stratton Elementary School, says $100,000 is needed to keep the clinics functioning at their current level, with part-time nurse practitioners. But she says they would like to find an additional $15,000 to provide support for fund-raising and grant proposals, to pay for basic office supplies like a fax machine, and to buy educational videos for children with chronic illnesses like asthma and diabetes.

All three school-based centers serve neighborhoods with a high need for practical, easily accessible health care for both children and families. Vanderbilt’s nurse practitioners provide preventive medicine, health education and promotion, as well as manage chronic illnesses. Many children use the nurse practitioners at the school-based centers as their primary care provider.

Patti Scott, MSN, has been working as the nurse practitioner in the school-based center at Fall-Hamilton Elementary School for eight years. "I don’t know what would happen to these kids. I feel terrible. I see about 20 kids a day, some the school nurse can deal with, but about half really need NP help. Some would be able to go to the Vine Hill Clinic, some wouldn’t. I don’t know where they would go."

Each registered nurse working as the regular school nurse at the three centers is paid for by Metro Schools, and will continue working for each school regardless of the fate of the nurse practitioners. But Scott says the clinics could not serve primary care needs without a nurse practitioner.

"An RN alone can only follow doctor’s orders. They can’t treat an ear infection, strep throat, pneumonia, or other illnesses. They can’t write prescriptions," Scott said.

Sullivan says though the RN will still provide general school nurse services at her school clinic, Metro funding doesn’t provide for full-time RN care at Stratton.

Scott says the number of children with primary care needs has increased since TennCare has ended for many children. 50,000 children have reportedly been cut from TennCare rolls, and data shows less than 20 percent of Tennessee’s private pediatricians, the lowest figures in any state, are accepting new TennCare patients. Studies show children who are uninsured are more likely to delay getting care and suffer from chronic conditions that go unrecognized and untreated.

Media Contact: Heather Hall, (615)-322-3894
Pager: (615)-363-6451

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