School-Based Health Centers (SBHCs) got a much deserved spotlight on February 12 during an all-day advocacy event in Albany. Over 500 hundred SBHC supporters—mostly students, parents and teachers—from around the state visited Albany to urge legislators to hold SBHCs harmless in this year’s budget.
The Children’s Aid Society operates five school based health centers, which were represented by a group of 20 parents and students from Salomé Ureña Campus (SUCA) who had been recruited by parent coordinator Lidia Aguasanta.
The day began with an energetic rally; students, caregivers and teachers fired up the crowd through personal testimony of how SBHCs had helped students stay healthy and safe. Young people of all ages told stories of being able to access the necessary vaccines to attend school, the great strides they had made through the mental health services provided to them and having emergency cuts and scrapes attended to with no time wasted. Teens focused on the care they received as student athletes, the ability to access working papers and the reproductive health services and resources they were able to utilize.
Caregivers spoke of the newfound ease they had found in leaving their children with chronic asthma at school for the day. “My son has chronic asthma,” said Maria Morales, whose child attends sixth grade at M.S. 322 in SUCA. “I used to always work with my cellphone next to me because I knew that at any time I could get a call asking me to meet my child at the hospital. This school year he hasn’t had any hospitalizations.” As the students and the adults in their lives spoke at the microphone, the crowd cheered, clapped and waved blue pom-poms to show their support for SBHCs. Everyone from the youngest student to the eldest grandparent who had traveled to Albany in support of SBHCs made her voice heard.
The testimony did not end there. Participants eagerly met with elected officials to continue in the spirit of the rally. State senators and assembly members listened to the accounts of why SBHCs ensure better access to preventative health care, health education and treatment for young New Yorkers. Supporters were delighted to see our elected officials agree that SBHCs make good common sense, and we all look forward to seeing their continued support.
Written by Sharon Weintraub, SBHC Health Educator at SUCA and MSC