Ridly Thomas introduced The CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE assembly bill (AB) 766 to initiate amendment of the existing law. The bill requires the State Department of Public Health and the Department of Education to cooperate and set up public school health centers across schools in California. The amendment of the existing law seeks to ensure that public school health centers provide free health care services to all students regardless of the their social and economic backgrounds. This paper is developed against the backdrop of the debate between democrats and republicans that has characterized the bill. It examines the issue and assesses its severity. In addition, the paper explores the positions that various political parties and interest groups have while debating the bill. The paper recommends that the bill should be passed to enable it redress vulnerable communities in California.
Key words: Assembly Bill 766, public health, democrats, republicans
Assembly Bill, AB 766 was introduced by Ridly-Thomas. According to the existing law, a public school health center should be set up to by the STATE DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH. The department should cooperate with the DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION in the establishment process. The center support program is required to carry out certain functions. These functions include setting up, retention and expansion of school health centers in California. The current law that requires amendment calls has placed an obligation upon the DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH to set up a grants program to assist in expansion and renovation of school health centers (Assembly Bill, 2015). However, the bill states that schools should be given a priority when they have a greater number of students that receive low cost coverage on health through programs such as Medi-Cal. This would ensure that these students receive supplementary medication through the improvement of school centers. The amendment in section of 124174 of the safety code reads that school health centers that receive grants funds must meet certain qualifications. These qualifications include:
Provision of s comprehensive set of services such as oral health, health education, while responding to the needs of the community.
Provision of health care services. These services must go through supervisory procedures such as laboratory tests, diagnosis and treatment, nutrition services, and physical examinations (Assembly Bill, 2015).
Severity of the problem
Health has been a significant issue in California. The California health and safety code aims to achieve the highest level of health for the people of California. In this regard, the code places emphasis on people that have experienced social and economic parity that arise from injustices. The social and economic neglect of vulnerable communities has been a pervading phenomenon that extends to linguistically, geographically and culturally isolated communities. These communities have been exposed to squalor and debilitating poverty. The worst affected segment of these vulnerable populations is children. These children attend schools under deplorable conditions and cannot afford basic healthcare programs (Haskell et al., 2007). The existing law paid little regard to the health outcomes of people living in such areas. This explains why the new law seeks to alter the situation by promoting programs that would change the health conditions. Thus, attempts to redress their plight and bring back dignity upon them have been the focus of the public health policies and programs.
The absence of intervention would worsen the situation. This is because the existence of inequality begets conflict. A society that is facing crisis and shortage of fundamental human needs is danger of instigating conflict with itself. Lack of intervention opens the way for more problems such as high school dropout rates, juvenile delinquency and increasing crime levels. Children that attend schools with poor healthcare facilities are prone to various diseases that may be difficult to control. In this regard, the intervention sought in this matter would help restore the situation in the vulnerable populations and reduce further risks through elevation of health care standards.
Researchers recognize that the problem on public health needs redress. The methods of redress are contained in the proposed bill. If the bill passes, implementation of programs would be done with the purpose of improving health care outcomes among vulnerable populations. The issue contributes to a bigger health problem only if no efforts are made to redress the current healthcare situation.
3. Overview of the legislation
Part A: The bill has many provisions that deal with the issue of healthcare. Some of the amendments include working in a collaborative engagement with the school nurse. This nurse can be employed by the school to offer individual and family health education. The nurse can also participate in district wide health promotion programs. It involves serving registered students in the school. This means that each child in the school can access healthcare service regardless of his economic ability. The bill would eliminate the initial barrier in which students were not able to able to access healthcare services in school health centers. The bill proposes that the amount of funds available through grants will range between $25000 dollars and $50000 (Assembly Bill, 2015). Qualification for these grants shall be accompanied by letter of interest. The letter may come from a school or the district in the event that the individual or entity making application is not an education agency. Successful applicants would be required to collect data on the school community. This data would be useful in determining the number of students that require health insurance vis-à-vis a percentage that apply for Medi-Cal health benefits as well as low-cost healthcare services. The grantees will examine the capacity and interest of local health care providers and determine if they can offer the same services in the school health centers.
Part B: the legislation is expected to create an impact once it is enacted. The program would save many parents from contributing to the health needs of their children while they are at school. The program seeks to provide health services freely to students regardless of whether they can pay or not. This means that a lot of money will be saved to achieve this goal. In addition, the addition of $100000 towards the construction of facilities and medical equipment as well as supplies for a school health center will lead to improve delivery of healthcare services. The grants shall be given to schools in areas with difficulties of access to medication. Such areas are said to be medically starved. Schools that have a high number of low income or uninsured children will also be considered for this program alongside those with a number of English limited pro-efficient students (DPH, 2015).
4. Support or Opposition of Bill
A: The assembly bill 766 was a subject of an important debate in the state assembly. Both members of the political divide expressed their arguments on the floor of the house. While the democrats expressed support for the bill, major opposition emanated from the republicans. Democrats viewed this as a bill as pro-poor since it contained adjustments that would ensure that students from disadvantaged backgrounds access healthcare services while they are in school. They argued that according priority to schools with the highest number of needy students would help to cushion their families and remove the extra burden of medication from them (Haskell et al., 2007). Other the other hand, the republicans argued that the amendments to the bill would fundamentally change the framework of providing medical services in California. Their argument hinged on long tradition in which access to healthcare services was based on an individual’s ability to afford it. In a bid to break from the conventional healthcare practice, most democrats held the view that provision of healthcare services to all Californian children would go a long way towards reducing the gap of inequalities that has pervaded the United States from a socio-economic standpoint.
ii. Interest groups
The support of the bill increased with various interest groups striving lobbying for support across the political divide. The human rights lobby group added its voice into the debate. It argued that children’s education is paramount. However, children can only learn in an environment that is conducive. Such an environment must be enhanced through the provision of healthcare services. Thus, making healthcare services within the reach of all students without placing conditions on the basis of affordability helps to bridge the gap of inequality and unnecessary prejudice that was traditionally withheld on the account of money (DPH, 2015).
Part B: The promoters of this legislation believe in its positive outcomes.
Many things would change if the bill is passed. Some of the expected changes include ability of low-performing schools to receive grants for the establishment of school health centers. The provision of the bill gives the local healthcare centers to develop school health centers so that their functionality and purpose can be improved. The bill would also ensure that schools in areas with a low number of health care professional receive funds. The impact of this development would see such schools improve their healthcare settings including the ability to increase the number of health professionals due to increased financial power (Haskell et al., 2007). Various departments will receive annual disbursements of funds to carry out evaluation processes to determine the impact of this bill. Part of the evaluation will include challenges and lessons learnt from the establishment of school health centers. The specific health promoters that will occur if the bill passes include improved access to health care services by students across the state. Students from low-income backgrounds would be encouraged to seek medication without feeling prejudiced by the system. The result of this development would be improved health conditions of students.
Part C: The opposition towards the bill superimposes the earlier submissions about the stand of republicans. The individuals opposing the bill argue that it contradicts the conventional health care practice. These people hold a conservative opinion that the existing law should be applied. The existing law advocates for the removal of some personal identification information according to the DIVISION OF LABOR AND STANDARDS ENFORCEMENT. People opposed to the amendment of the California bill fear that the consequences of such enactments might be greater than the anticipated benefits. In this regard, the existing law should not be subjected to changes that might ultimately affect its founding mission.
5. Unintended consequences
It is feared that passing of the bill would lead to some unintended consequences if it is passed. There are concerns that the confidentiality and privacy of health information may not be consistent with the state and federal laws. This is because of the requirements that call for coordination of services between students in a school and a school health center staff. In the vent that the new arrangement breaches the federal and state laws, then the essence of the enactment would be thrown into jeopardy. Any law that comes into place must take cognizance of the existing law state and federal laws to avoid cases of inconsistency (Haskell et al., 2007). Thus, the bill should be examined to ensure that it is in line with the provisions of the federal and state laws. Otherwise, it would invalid to the extent of inconstancy with the state and federal laws. Another challenge would be the failure by applicants of grants to complete community assessment and determine the need for a school center. During such assessments, certain parameters are ignored while determining the circumstances for need of school health center.
If the bill is passed, certain unanticipated changes may occur. These changes may include lack of continuous assessments; crisis intervention and counseling after school healthcare centers have been given the mandate to pursue grants for expansion and renovation. Inadequate assessment may lead to the violations in the acceptable practices that healthcare centers should uphold. Lack of supervisory and monitoring unit may pose a serious challenge on the viability of school health centers to dispense healthcare needs of patients (Haskell et al., 2007). In this regard, there is a need for the monitoring and supervisory bodies to check the use of grants in the implementation of school health centers. Another challenge might include the failure of the school health centers to provide oral health services. These services include preventive services, restorative services and specialty services.
Various recommendations were highlighted in light of the foregoing. The bill should be passed to redress the status of health care in schools. This would ensure that students have access to free health care services. The result of this would be an improvement in their performance.
All applicants of the grants should meet set qualifications. This would make sure that the grant is given to worthy applicants. Carrying out evaluation to assess the benefits and risks that the programs contained in the bill helps in identifying strengths and weaknesses. Evaluation enhances improvement in areas of weakness. It helps to identify areas that need amendments into the existing legislations.
Legislatures should embrace objectivity during debate instead of party affiliations. While it is their democratic right to support the ideals of their respective parties, it is not purposeful to hold opinions that do not reflect the wishes of the majority. The vulnerable communities look forward to the passing of the bill with the hope that it will help restore their conditions. In this regard, it is not about which political party one belongs. Rather, it is about the need to come together and pass bills that can improve the health of the poor people.
The bill should incorporate measures that would be taken to avoid unintended consequences that may arise after the passing of the bill. This would ensure that the fundamental goal of this legislation is achieved without violating other aspects of legislation. Such measures can include formative assessment of the legislation.
Assembly Bill. (2015). Legislative council digest. Retrieved from http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=201520160AB766&search_keywords=public+health+public+schools
California DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH, DPH (2015). Retrieved from http://www.cdph.ca.gov/Pages/DEFAULT.aspx
Haskell, W. L., Lee, I. M., Pate, R. R., Powell, K. E., Blair, S. N., Franklin, B. A., & Bauman, A. (2007). Physical activity and public health: updated recommendation for adults from the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association. Circulation, 116(9), 1081.