Twenty-eight years ago, in 1987, a funding announcement from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) called for communities across the United States to consider the creation of school-based health centers. From all of the applications that were submitted to RWJF, twenty-six communities were awarded funding to place an integrated primary care and mental health center on middle or high school campuses. In Louisiana, two communities were on that list--Baton Rouge (2 sites) and New Orleans (1 site).
The idea was simple: overcome the barrier of transportation and parents missing work--bring providers to the one place that children and youth in the US have to be--school! If health centers were placed in schools, would parents allow their children to use the primary care and mental health services that were being offered? What would be the impact of placing services directly into the school--both in terms of health and education?
What started as a small program-of-work exploded onto the scenes of both healthcare and education across the Unites States--the initial funding by RWJF became the genesis of a new "disruptive innovation" as the initial sites showed remarkable impact on both health and education outcomes. Many states, including Louisiana, began to use state funding to open more centers. In Louisiana, carry-over Maternal and Child Health (MCH) funds were used to expand the initial three RWJF sites to other parishes around the state where health; communities and school systems were seeking ways to put a health center in their area.
In 1995, the advocates and providers in the states were calling for a national organization to be formed so that cross-training, advocacy skills, quality services, and common themes could be fleshed out--learning from one another and forming best practices. The National Assembly on School-Based Health Care was born at a conference in Washington, DC in June of that year. From these meager beginnings, a new model in health care was born.