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Calif. Governor Seeks To Expand In-School Clinics

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Gov. Pete Wilson of California has launched a new effort to expand school-based health clinics by making them eligible for Medicaid reimbursements.

Under the program, which was announced last month, the state will work with eight private foundations to expand health clinics and other social services at schools.

According to the Governor's office, there are currently less than three dozen schools statewide that offer comprehensive health and social services on-site.

Amy Albright, a spokesman for the Governor's office of child development and education, said the initiative would dramatically increase the number of school-based clinics, although officials do not yet know how great the expansion will be.

"This is part of the Governor's prevention agenda," she said. "We know that kids who are not healthy will not make it through the school system."

The budget adopted by the legislature last year includes $20 million for school-based health services, and Governor Wilson has said he wants to increase the funding by $20 million a year over the next five years, Ms. Albright explained.

The eight foundations have pledged to contribute $5.25 million over the next three years to provide technical assistance to the new clinics to help them qualify as healthcare providers under the Medicaid program, thus making them eligible for federal reimbursements.

Currently, state and local funds are exclusively used to fund such services.

State officials believe that the reimbursements could total $45 million in the first year alone, and could rise to as much as $300 million yearly. This new money would then be reinvested in the new service delivery system.

Although California would not be the first state to make school-based clinics eligible for Medicaid funding, the initiative is the largest such state effort to date.

The Center for Population Options, a Washington-based group that monitors school-based clinics, estimates that about 2 percent of the income of all school-based clinics and 4 percent of the income of clinics located just off school grounds comes from Medicaid reimbursements.--E.F.

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