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

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

Sacramento, caliph. (CN) – California lawmakers are nearing the final step to send a potential bill expanding funding and support for school health centers – which drew fire from Senate Republicans this week – for the governor’s consideration.

AB 1940 set off a tense debate for nearly an hour on the state Senate floor Wednesday — the last day for amendments to table as bills move through the Legislature this month. It was created to authorize student health centers in or near schools in California, providing “age-appropriate health care services by qualified health professionals to help students who experience barriers to accessing forms of other health care.

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

Senate Republicans argued that the bill could somehow allow schools to help minors access reproductive health care, pointing to language in the bill that allows students to access information on reproductive health services.

Senator Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh, of Yucaipa, asked at what levels students can access information about all health services. She asked Senator Melissa Hurtado – a Democrat from Sanger, who held the Law – who would pay for those services.

Hurtado said the law 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 offered abortion services to a child,” she said.

“I think there’s a lot of fear about this bill, it really doesn’t change how parents are notified. It doesn’t change medical consent laws.”

Ochoa Bogh continued to attack the bill, citing Assembly Bill 1184 to take effect this year to amend the Confidentiality of Medical Information Act to make minor health decisions about “sensitive services” such as private reproductive care by parents. their policy.

“My concern with this particular bill would be that we’re providing these services now on campus without parents knowing, health-wise or through their health plans, what’s being offered to their children,” she said.

Other Republicans also claimed the bill would reduce parents’ control over the health services their children could use at school — like Sen. Melissa Melendez of Lake Elsinore, who said “We need to keep our noses out of medical (decisions) . “

Sen. Richard Pan of Sacramento, a physician, explains why student health centers are essential programs to help students who have barriers to regular health care in California. Screenshot via News House.

Sen. Sydney Kamlager, a Democrat from Los Angeles, told other senators to take a closer look at the bill, noting that it does not expand any state control over parents’ existing rights over children’s health care. She said some children may seek care without their parents’ knowledge out of concern for their safety — although she agreed with one of Melendez’s statements, adding “The government needs to stay out of our vaginas.”

Sen. Susan Talamantes Eggman, a Democrat from Stockton, said student health centers are an important resource for students to learn “help-seeking behaviors” to protect their health and be able to get medical help when they have 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 be about reproductive rights, and it’s so offensive,” she said. “You want to demonize school nurses who talk about reproductive health and that doesn’t change anything about parental consent. It just says we’re going to pay for poor kids … these are poor kids who need help from a school nurse. “

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

With only eight “no” votes, AB 1940 passed and needs a final vote by the assembly to head to the governor’s desk. All draft laws have time until August 31 to successfully move to both chambers of the legislature.

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