California lawmakers approve controversial bill to expand support for school health centers

California Democrats have criticized Republican senators for saying student health centers could help minors access reproductive health care.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) — California lawmakers are nearing the final stage to send potential legislation expanding funding and support for school health centers — which drew attacks from Senate Republicans this week — for consideration by the governor.

AB 1940 sparked a tense nearly hour-long debate in the state Senate on Wednesday — the last day for amendments on the table as bills pass through the Legislature this month. It is designed to authorize Student Health Centers at or near California schools, providing “age-appropriate clinical health care services” from qualified medical professionals, to assist students who are experiencing barriers to accessing other forms of health care.

The bill authorizes health centers to provide primary medical care, behavioral health services or dental services onsite or via telehealth. If approved, the state will provide technical and renovation support to health centers through various grants. The bill removes the requirement for the state Department of Education to act as liaison for school health centers, writing instead that the program will be supported by the Department of Education. California Public Health.

Senate Republicans claimed the bill could somehow allow schools to help minors access reproductive health care, pointing to language in the bill allowing students to access information about services reproductive health.

Senator Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh, from Yucaipa, asked at what grade levels students can access information on all health services. She asked Sen. Melissa Hurtado — a Democrat from Sanger, who championed the bill — who would pay for those services.

Hurtado said the bill does not change any local control exercised by each school district and locally elected school board, which will ultimately decide what services a student health center can provide and how they will be funded.

“I can assure you that no SBHC has ever provided abortion services to a child,” she said.

“I think there are a lot of fears about this bill, it really doesn’t change the way parents are informed. This does not change medical consent laws.

Ochoa Bogh continued to attack the bill, citing Assembly Bill 1184 coming into effect this year to amend the Medical Information Privacy Act to make health decisions for minors on “services sensitive” such as the private reproductive care of their insured parents.

“My concern with this particular bill would be that we are now providing these services on campus without parents knowing, health-wise or through their health plans, what is being provided to their children,” a- she declared.

Other Republicans have also argued that the bill would reduce parents’ control over the health services their children can access at school, such as Senator Melissa Melendez of Lake Elsinore, who said, “We should keep the nose away from medical (decisions).

Senator Richard Pan of Sacramento, MD, explains why Student Health Centers are essential programs to help students who have barriers to regular health care in California. Screenshot via Courthouse News.

Senator Sydney Kamlager, a Democrat from Los Angeles, told other senators to read the bill more closely, pointing out that it does not extend any state control above parents’ existing rights over care. children’s health. She said some children might seek care without their parents’ knowledge out of concern for their own safety – although she agreed with one of Melendez’s statements, adding that “the government should stay out of our vaginas”.

Senator Susan Talamantes Eggman, Democrat of Stockton, said student health centers are an important resource for students to learn “help-seeking behaviors” to advocate for their own health and to be able to seek medical help when in need. they need it.

She criticized Republicans for turning the discussion of children’s health centers into an issue of reproductive services.

“They want to politicize everything to make it reproductive rights, and that’s so insulting,” she said. “You want to demonize school nurses for talking about reproductive health, and that doesn’t change parental consent. It just says we will pay for poor children…these are poor children who need the help of a school nurse.

Hurtado reminded the Senate that some schools in California already operate health centers and that the bill seeks to expand support for those programs.

With only eight “no” votes, AB 1940 passed and needs a final vote from the Assembly to head for the governor’s office. All bills have until August 31 to successfully pass through both houses of the Legislative Assembly.

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