By Crystal Willis, MSSW Intern at Kentucky Youth Advocates

In March, Congress made a commitment to the nation’s most vulnerable children by investing in school-based health services. Signed into federal law on Tuesday March 15, the 2022 Omnibus Appropriations package includes $30 million for school-based health centers. This is a $25 million increase from fiscal year 2021, which will allow for more services to be provided and is a tremendous win for children and families across the U.S. 

In addition, the U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary and the U.S. Education Department have expressed their commitment to youth and children by joining efforts to expand school-based health services. Their goal is to allow children and families to thrive by supporting and empowering them with necessary services and support. Combined with the new investments in school-based health centers, we hope to see increased access to care for children and youth of color, immigrant children, children with disabilities, those who have faced prior discrimination in the health care system, and other vulnerable groups. 

Students and their families across the state rely on school-based health services to meet their needs for primary medical care as well as behavioral health, dental, and vision care during the school day. School-based health centers can play a key role in supporting students’ educational success through reduced absences and improved health.

While both physical and mental health are essential in holistic care, it is important not to forget about oral health. Cavities are one of the most common chronic diseases of childhood in the United States. About twenty percent of children ages five to eleven years have at least one untreated decayed tooth and the odds are twice as high for children in low income households. If cavities are left untreated, it can lead to pain and infection which can result in problems with eating, speaking, as well as learning and being able to concentrate during school. 

The development of good oral health practices from a young age encourages a life-long path toward health and wellbeing. This includes prevention measures such as mandatory dental screenings to enter Kindergarten, which is a requirement in Kentucky. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, health care professionals have seen an increase in the instances of tooth decay and urgent oral health concerns. We are excited to see funds being allocated to school-based health centers, encouraging children and families to focus on the importance of oral health, overall health, and accessing needed care.

This post is part of the blog series, Intern InsightsPhoto by Caleb Oquendo via Pexels.