Grand Ledge High School is among 26 schools recently awarded funds from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to expand school health centers, which are mostly focused in rural areas of the state. The new funding for child and adolescent health centers throughout Michigan will ensure students can access those services without ever leaving their school.
Such school-based health clinics, however, have faced controversy in some communities, where local officials have taken issue with how some providers advertise their values and services to students.
In Michigan, state law allows teens to cut their parents out of medical decisions on issues like pregnancies, mental health, and drug abuse.
In June, for example, the Grant school board voted to cut ties with Family Health Care over objections to a mural promoting the LGBTQ+ lifestyle that greeted students in the health center’s lobby.
The decision sparked a heated community debate that eventually led to the district renewing its contract with Family Health Care in September with specific restrictions, Fox 17 reports.
“Stipulations of the contract include increased transparency, formalizing the Board of Education’s involvement with the Community Advisory Council; regular updates provided to the Board on operations of the school-based clinic; utilities for the clinic being billed to the health center or a third-party; and removal of the student-created mural in the lobby of the clinic,” Alan Neushwander wrote in a release from Family Health Care.
While “diversity, equity, and inclusion are at the forefront of everything we do,” Neushwander wrote, Family Health Care “reluctantly” removed the mural at the end of October to appease the board.
In other states, disgruntled parents have pushed back on the growing involvement of schools and contractors in important student health decisions with a Parents’ Bill of Rights that requires notification to parents for health care services and student decisions regarding gender.
While successful in North Carolina and other states, the parents’ rights legislation is broadly backed by Republicans and strongly opposed by Democrats. The latter currently controls all three branches of Michigan government.
The initial $2.4 million in funding to 26 schools in 21 counties supports planning grants to “identify locations in or near K-12 schools to add primary care, nursing and behavioral health services for students,” according to a DHHS release.
It’s part of a broader $25 million investment by the Whitmer administration to expand on 200 existing child health centers already serving students in Michigan, with the 26 schools including Grand Ledge now collecting “implementation funding” for launch.
Sean Williams, superintendent of the Eaton Regional Education Service Agency, touted the school health centers in an interview with WLNS.
“This is a great opportunity to bring the service directly to students that kind of cuts out the need for parents to take their kids to the doctors when they can schedule that appointment right in their high school,” he said.
Williams claimed demand for youth services are high in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, when government shutdowns that isolated students for months.
“There are a lot of students that are dealing with depression, they’re having behavioral issues because they haven’t been socialized and working in groups and working with others, and so that service right on campus is going to be amazing here in Grand Ledge,” he said.
“The fact that we (will) bring it to Grand Ledge High School and provide the services for our kids has been met with a lot of excitement in our community,” Bill Barnes, superintendent of Grand Ledge Public Schools, told the news site.
Other schools districts receiving health care money are located in Suttons Bay, Frankfort-Elberta, Adrian, Reed City, Evart, Cass City, Shepherd, Sandusky, Bay City, Alma, St. Louis, Hillman, Springport, Kentwood, East Lansing, Madison Heights, Mt. Morris, and elsewhere.