Statement by Dr. Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates
Louisville, KY – There can be no question that the Kentucky General Assembly – through the leadership of Senator Wise and Representative Carney, along with a bipartisan cadre of legislative champions – gave Kentucky kids a historic win when it passed Senate Bill 1, the School Safety and Resiliency Act. Ensuring that every Kentucky student is safe and connected at every Kentucky school every day is an ethical imperative for this Commonwealth.
We at Kentucky Youth Advocates were impressed at the General Assembly’s attention to issues like infrastructure protections and research-based protocols for school-based law enforcement. But what really animated us about SB 1 was the consensus from legislators, other elected officials, law enforcement, and educators that behavioral health services were the key element to short and long-term school safety and the well-being of our young people.
And yet, there remained a haunting question: how were we going to pay for it?
The Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS) seized on a previously untapped opportunity, known as Free Care, to amend the state’s Medicaid plan to allow school districts to utilize federal Medicaid funding to expand school-based health services and connect more Kentucky students with the preventive health and behavioral health services they need.
The importance of preventive health and behavioral health services is undeniable as is the insight to provide them in schools to maximize students’ access. Ensuring children have these services not only positively impacts health, it is a catalyst to better academic achievement and even better school environment.
We applaud CHFS for leveraging these federal funds to provide much-needed health services to students right in the school setting, such as comprehensive health screenings, therapy services, and more. With today’s announcement on approval from the federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) of this proposal, the promise of SB 1 last spring can become a 2020 reality for schools, kids, and families across Kentucky.
About Kentucky Youth Advocates
Kentucky Youth Advocates believes all children deserve to be safe, healthy, and secure. As THE independent voice for Kentucky’s children, we work to ensure policymakers create investments and policies that are good for children. Learn more at www.kyyouth.org.