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OLYMPIA – Schools in Washington state will benefit from a federal grant for health services, according to an announcement from the Washington State Health Care Authority.

HCA, in partnership with the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, has been awarded $2.5 million by the Baltimore-based Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to improve and expand school-based services, the announcement said. The funds will be used to improve student attendance, increase academic achievement and support overall student well-being.

The grant includes $500,000 for the first year and an additional $1 million for the second and third years, the HCA wrote. Washington is one of 18 states receiving grants totaling $50 million to support school-based services.

“HCA is honored to have been selected to provide federal capacity-building resources in partnership with schools and OSPI,” HCA Director Sue Birch wrote in the announcement. “This initiative builds on years of investment in health care reform and addresses not only medical needs, but also the growing social needs of our school-age children in Washington. Through the dedicated efforts of the school-based Medicaid team and our integrated Behavioral Health and Recovery Division, we will enhance the supports schools can offer students who are still recovering from the impacts of COVID, the opioid and fentanyl crisis, violence, and the widespread challenges of anxiety and depression. We look forward to building the resilience of Washington students and expanding their opportunities to ensure they have the support they need to succeed.”

Schools are unique places to provide necessary health services to children and youth, especially those enrolled in Apple Health and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, the HCA wrote. From preventive and behavioral health care to physical care, school-based services provide families and students with convenient care from trusted partners where children learn and grow. These services have been shown to promote child health and improve educational outcomes.

According to the announcement, HCA plans community engagement activities for students and families, school districts, tribes and other groups, and partner agencies to improve and expand school-based services, including increased student access to behavioral health services and supports. CMS will work with Washington to implement new requirements and opportunities outlined in guidance on school-based services to be released in 2023.