Local school districts could get help from the federal government in providing health care services as early as this upcoming school year if the state government has its way.

Earlier this week, the Cabinet for Health and Family Services and the Kentucky Department of Education unveiled a plan that would allow Kentucky school districts to use federal Medicaid money to provide students enrolled in Medicaid with increased access to school-based health care, including mental health services, health screenings, diabetes and asthma management, according to a news release from Gov. Matt Bevin.

Currently, only students enrolled in Medicaid with an Individual Education Plan qualify to receive these services, the state said.

The U.S. Centers for Medi­care and Medicaid Services would have to sign off on the proposed plan.

Teresa Morgan, Hardin Coun­ty Schools superintendent, said she was excited about the state’s plan.

“Mainly the component of mental health and being able to provide additional services for our students who are in need of those services,” she said.

Janay Sutton, director of Health and Family Services for HCS, shared Morgan’s excitement, but noted there were still aspects of the plan that needed to be specified and the plan had yet to be approved.

For example, the school district currently has a contract Cumberland Family Medical to operate its on-site medical clinics, which are at all of the schools. Under the contract, the district pays to cover the cost of the nurse salaries while Cumberland Family Medical also pays a portion.

“Currently, school nurse services are not reimbursable,” she said. “If they do become available to be reimbursed, then that would allow our contract with Cumberland potentially to change to where the cost” would lower.

Jon Ballard, Elizabethtown Independent Schools superintendent, said in a text message that the plan would not have a huge effect at his schools if it comes to fruition.

“It won’t really affect the services we provide,” Ballard said. We will continue providing the same services. This just allows allows us to get reimbursed from medicaid for some that we were not reimbursed for previously. It won’t be a great deal of money, but every little bit helps.”

In a letter to all Kentucky school superintendents, KDE Commissioner Wayne Lewis highlighted the importance of providing healthcare in schools.

“When students have access to high-quality behavioral health services in the school building, including from clinically trained professionals, they can receive preventive treatment to address challenges before issues get more serious, require more costly interventions, and potentially put other students at risk,” he wrote. “Given Medicaid’s historic role in supporting children’s health and educational outcomes, ensuring that all eligible students in your district are enrolled in Medicaid and have access to the school-based health services they need are key strategies to supporting a healthy learning environment and academic success.”

The plan could also help school districts comply with Senate Bill 1, which would require a school counselor for every 250 students beginning July 2021.

Trey Crumbie can be reached at 270-505-1747 or tcrumbie@thenewsenterprise.com.

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