March 16, 2023

A bill to codify School-Based Health Centers heads to Guv’s desk

Matthew Reichbach

A bill to codify School-Based Health Centers into state statute passed the House floor by a 40-25 vote Wednesday night after hours of debate.

SB 397, sponsored by state Rep. Christine Trujillo, D-Albuquerque, heads to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s desk. The bill does not change anything about School-Based Health Centers which have already been in existence in New Mexico for the last 25 years.

There are 79 School-Based Health Centers in the state and 54 of them are currently funded by the Department of Health.

The bill generated considerable debate on the House floor with Republicans expressing concern over the right of young people to consent to their own healthcare. That is existing state law.

“If they are under 14, the kid has to have parental consent. Every clinic, whether they are School-Based Health Centers or not, they follow the same policies. If they are 14 or older, they do not need the consent,” Trujillo said.

State Rep. Jenifer Jones, R-Deming, asked if the state has ever been short on funding for these clinics. Trujillo said the state has and, as a result, five School-Based Health Centers closed six years ago. They have never reopened, Trujillo said.

Trujillo said the reason to codify the centers now is due to a concern that the School-Based Health Centers could be eliminated due to political whims.

State Rep. Jim Townsend, R-Artesia, asked if members of the community are able to access the centers. Trujillo said some charter schools within a community use a School-Based Health Center. She said members of the community if it is approved by the individual school board.

Townsend also asked if school boards could opt out. Trujillo said it is up to the school board to choose whether to open and operate a center and, if they do, which provider they partner with and what services that fall under primary and behavioral healthcare they provide.