You are probably already aware that due to the state's budget challenges, Governor Sonny Perdue has proposed to eliminate the state funding for all school nurse programs. This news is obviously very disheartening.
This means the funding that school districts have received from the state since 2000 to implement school nurse programs and hire licensed professional nurses to care for Georgia's students would be totally eliminated, not just reduced. For many school districts like Fulton County, this literally means that all School Nurses would potentially be eliminated.
School Districts use the state funding to provide and supplement their budget allocations to implement school health services and programs. In light of the current economic climate, it is quite obvious that most school districts would find this extremely challenging should the funding be eliminated. School districts are not in a financial position to solely and fully fund these programs and services; thus significant reductions or elimination of the services and programs would be inevitable.
So, what does this really mean and what are the consequences? Unfortunately, the consequences would be tragic and all children in Georgia public schools would suffer. Why? Because of the following reasons:
It is estimated that 15 million students annually visit and receive care from school based clinics for illnesses, medications and/or injuries;
1.5 million school-age children do not have health coverage and their first level of care when faced with a medical issue is the school clinic;
Approximately 30% of Georgia students have health conditions (i.e. asthma, diabetes, cancer, life-threatening allergies and seizure disorder);
As many as 5 million doses of prescription medications are given annually at schools;
School Nurses respond to medical emergencies, educate staff on school health issues and provide training on medical procedures;
School Nurses work in collaboration with community physicians and health organizations to ensure the health needs of students are met, and
They manage and prevent the control of communicable diseases; to only mention a few of their responsibilities.
Just recently in the media, student's compliance to Georgia immunization laws was raised. School nurses are a key component in monitoring the immunization status of school students and they assist the Public Health Department with ensuring immunization requirements are met. One can only imagine the results of this one health issue being left solely up to the school staff. Students and parents need and deserve School Nurses!
I employ and urge you as a Georgia citizen, physician, pediatrician, business leader, school administrator, community advocate, children's advocate, parent, student, school staff member or just supporter of school nurses, to please the contact the Governor and members of the Appropriations and Health Committees and offer your support by voicing your disapproval of these funds being eliminated from the state budget.
The following is contact information for Governor Sonny Perdue:
Governor Sonny Perdue
The Office of the Governor
203 State Capital, Atlanta, GA 30334
You can also access the Appropriations Committee Members at: http://www.legis.state.ga.us/legis/2009_10/house/Committee/appropriations/gahapp.htm; and the Health and Human Services Committee Members at: http://www.legis.ga.gov/legis/2009_10/senate/health.php.
Thank you in advance for your support and please do not hesitate to contact me if you have questions or need any additional information.
In the words of the Former U.S. General Surgeon, Dr. Jocelyn Elder, "Children must be healthy to be educated and educated to be healthy."
Lynne P. Meadows, RN, MS
Coordinator, Student Health Services
Fulton County Schools