February 28, 2023

Bill to codify School-Based Health Centers passes Senate

The New Mexico State Capitol, or Roundhouse Wikicommons.

A bill to codify School-Based Health Centers, which have been serving students for 25 years, passed the state Senate chamber on Monday.

SB 397 passed the state Senate 26 to 11 after lengthy debate on the floor. The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Nancy Rodriguez, D-Santa Fe, said it was a simple bill that did not fundamentally change how the health center currently operate.

“This does nothing more than codify School-Based Health Centers. They are not statutorily protected. Anyone can wipe them out. This puts them in state statute,” Rodriguez said.

Some Republicans argued that the bill would, if enacted, create situations in which students were receiving healthcare without consent of their parents or guardians.

“So children can walk to the doctor’s office without mom knowing because it shall be on campus or where there’s a crossing guard….Again, no mom. Why do we not want mom in this? This confuses me why we don’t want mom,” State Sen. Bill Sharer, R-Farmington, said.

Rodriguez said that, currently, parents do provide consent for their child to receive health care at the School-Based Health Centers. The bill, if it becomes law, would not change anything about the way School-Based Health Centers currently operate, she said. School-Based Health Centers are not allowed, by federal law, to provide abortion or make referrals for abortion, Rodriguez said, in response to questions some Republicans made over reproductive healthcare. Some School-Based Health Centers provide other forms of reproductive healthcare, but what each center provides is determined by the individual school district and the school boards, Rodriguez said.

State Sen. Gay Kernan, R-Hobbs, asked if funding parameters should change for the School-Based Health Centers that do not currently receive funding by the state, would those School-Based Health Centers lose the flexibility they have in choosing the type of healthcare the students receive.

Rodrgiuez said that “even if they do get funding [now], nothing changes.”

“They still have full control,” she said.

SB 397 heads to the House next.