School clinics want answers after state pulls funding

Five health clinics located in public schools will see a complete stripping of their state funding, likely leading all five to shut down. The cuts, announced by the state Department of Health earlier this month, come as part of several money-tightening measures placed in the state budget this year amid declining oil and gas revenues. The budget, passed by the state Legislature and signed by Gov. Susana Martinez, cut $300,000 for school-based health clinics. Now critics are panning state health department officials for a lack of transparency in how they decided to issue all of the cuts to a handful of 53 such clinics across the state. “The criteria they used is still unknown to us,” state Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez said in an interview.

School health clinic cuts final; more may come

Among the many cuts in this year’s coming state budget signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Susana Martinez are $300,000 for school-based health clinics. As NM Political Report wrote earlier this week, the 53 health clinics in public schools across the state funded by the state Department of Health were facing the cuts in the upcoming budget, which Martinez signed into law on Tuesday. The clinics, which are located on school grounds, offer free health care on the spot for children and adolescents, who in New Mexico statistically tend not to receive care. As governor, Martinez has the authority to line-item veto items in the budget, including the $300,000 of cuts to school-based clinics. But when she signed the budget on Tuesday, she left in the cuts to clinics, which while comparatively small compared to other cuts in the budget are still enough to completely shut off state funding for six school-based health clinics.

Health clinics in schools on budget chopping block

Monique Vallabhan, a certified nurse practitioner, recalls recently treating a student with a headache referred to her by the school nurse at one of Albuquerque’s largest public schools. The student left class to get ibuprofen from the school nurse, which Vallabhan prompted her to conduct a brief checkup. It turns his headache came after his dad kicked him in the head. Vallabhan connected him with the school health clinic’s resources, which includes a psychiatrist and a behavioral health therapist. “If he just took ibuprofen, those kind of things would be missed,” Vallabhan, who coordinates a full health clinic in Albuquerque High School, told NM Political Report in a recent interview.