New Report: Which Colorado Schools and Districts Could Benefit Most from a School-Based Health Center?

Colorado is fortunate to be home to a growing number of school-based health centers (SBHCs). These health centers are an important part of the health care safety net, providing care to more than 34,000 children across the state. Still, some places that need SBHCs don’t have them, according to a new Colorado Health Institute analysis.

The new report, Assessing the Need for School-Based Health Center Services in Colorado, 2015, identifies which schools and school districts have high needs for an SBHC in order to help inform decisions around placement of new SBHCs.

Because of inherent differences between urban and rural school settings, the Colorado Health Institute conducted two parallel analyses, one which looked at need among urban schools and another that focused on rural school districts.

The findings show that urban schools with the highest need are primarily located in Denver and Adams counties. Of the top 100 highest-need urban schools, 61 are in these two counties. The other 39 high-need schools are in Arapahoe, El Paso, Mesa, Pueblo and Weld counties.

The analysis identified 21 high-need rural school districts, most of which are on the Western Slope or in the San Luis Valley. There is a pocket of four very high-need districts in the San Luis Valley, none of which has an existing SBHC.

SBHC need

Schools and districts with existing SBHCs were included in the analysis, though only 18 of the 100 high-need schools and seven of the high-need districts already have a SBHC. The remaining 82 schools and 14 school districts may be good candidates for new SBHCs.

The needs assessment informs discussions around which communities would potentially benefit from a SBHC, so that they can reach and provide health care to as many vulnerable children as possible. Still, many additional factors should be taken into account when deciding where to place a SBHC. It is important to assess existing health care resources, may it be an existing SBHC nearby or other safety net clinics. Sustainability factors such as community buy-in and diversity of revenue sources are also important for the long-term success of a SBHC.

The Colorado Health Institute conducted the research for the Colorado Association for School-Based Health Care and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Natalie Triedman is a policy analyst at CHI.