Lincoln County set to lose four school nurses if alternate funding or new partnerships are not found

UPDATE, Aug. 11: The school board made up part of the health department’s budget cut, allowing it to keep seven nurses, “but not before a lengthy discussion which included talk of salary cuts and new pay scales for nurses,” The Interior Journal reports.

The Lincoln County School District joins the ranks of Kentucky schools that are at a loss regarding how to pay for its school nurses as school budgets and health department budgets dwindle, so much so in Lincoln that it may lose four registered nurses for the upcoming school year, Abigail Whitehouse reports for The Interior Journal.

Many school districts have relied on local health departments to help pay for its school nurses, but cuts in federal and state funding, as well as a reduction in Medicaid reimbursements have forced health departments to ask for more money from schools to fulfill this role.
That is the case for the Lincoln County Health Department, which had to cut $150,000 in local funding toward the school nurse program, Health Department Director Diane Miller told Whitehouse.

“We’re not able to fund them at the level (we were) but we are still going to go ahead and provide services to the Medicaid population and we will continue to bill those services for them,” Miller said.

The Lincoln County Board of Education held a special meeting July 14 to discuss the lack of funding for its school nurse program and the potential reduction of RNs at each school, Whitehouse reports.

Director of Student Support Services Eva Stone painted a picture with numbers that conveyed how vitally important school nurses are. “Of the nearly 4,000 students in the district, there were 1,755 health conditions reported during the 2014-15 school year and 905 alerts were reported, which she said typically means there might need to be some medical intervention done at school,” Whitehouse writes.

Stone spoke to the value of nurses as a means of keeping kids at school. “Of the 13,280 total visits to the school nurse last year (through the middle of May) 93 percent of those students were sent back to class,” Whitehouse writes. Stanford Elementary School Principal Brandi Hon concurred and told the board that because school nurses keep kids in school, this helps maintain funding because of fewer student absences.

Stone is searching for a solution and told the board that she will have a meeting with Danville-based Ephraim McDowell Health, Whitehouse reports. The school board gave her until its next meeting on Aug. 6 to find a new partnership or alternate funding.

But the bottom line is that if the district can’t come up with $150,000, four nurses will be cut, leaving five nurses to cover ten schools, Whitehouse reports.

Superintendent Karen Hatter told Whitehouse that district funding for the school nurse program has been about $250,000 a year and paid for from a contingency fund, or money left over after the district expenses are budgeted. But a school-bus wreck and a central-office fire in 2014 have caused insurance rates and deductibles to increase, which will draw down the fund.

“Hatter said she values the program and understands the concerns but she is also in charge of keeping the school district budget solvent,” Whitehouse reports.

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