Public School Health Services Amendment Act of 2017
Introduced: January 10, 2017
Co-introducers: Councilmembers Brianne Nadeau, Jack Evans, Charles Allen, Mary Cheh, Vincent Gray, Elissa Silverman, Trayon White, Anita Bonds
Summary: To amend the District of Columbia Public School Nurse Assignment Act of 1987 to increase the minimum hours per week of registered public school nurse services at elementary and secondary public and public charter schools to 40 hours per week.
Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:
Thank you Chairman Mendelson.
This morning along with Councilmembers Nadeau, Evans, Allen, Cheh, Gray, Silverman, T. White, and Bonds, I am introducing the “Public School Health Services Amendment Act of 2017.”
This legislation amends the District of Columbia Public School Nurse Assignment Act of 1987 to increase the minimum hours per week of registered public school nurse services at public and public charter schools to 40 hours per week.
As most of you know, last year, the Deputy Mayor for Education sent a letter to LEA leaders announcing the Department of Health’s new model for the school health services program. Under the new program, registered nurses will continue to provide clinical care for all children with special health care needs who require daily medications or treatment. Additional health professionals and community navigators will work with families, schools, and students’ primary care providers to make sure students receive well-child exams and the preventive services they need to be healthy.
However, the school nurse service levels were to be reset for all schools at a minimum of 20 hours each week. Schools may receive more nursing coverage depending on the medical needs of student population based on a risk-based health needs assessment.
While families and the public were supportive of adding more allied health professionals to schools to help with care coordination, including community navigators to connect families with local assets, parents were alarmed at the idea that there would not always be a qualified health professional on site to assess and triage sick and injured children or provide emergency care as needed. Simply calling 911 or working parents anytime a child presents with a potential health problem should not be our schools default.
Due to these concerns, the Council was successful in delaying in reduction in nurse services to school year 2017-2018. However, there still needs to be a public conversation about whether the District should be reducing school nursing hours or rather aligning itself with the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which both recommend having at least one full-time nurse in every school.
During a public roundtable on school health services last year, witnesses testified for five and a half hours about their concerns regarding the new program, particularly fear of losing full-time school nurses services. Many asked the Council to introduce legislation to increase the statutory minimum school nursing service level to 40 hours per week. To those constituents I say, we heard you. For me, this is about giving our families a piece of mind. Ensuring that there is always a qualified health professional at our public schools is a safety net.
I welcome any and all co-sponsors.