Foundation works to find funding for school nurses

The Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati shared a new plan for the school nursing program with City Council's Quality of Life Committee on Tuesday.

Currently the health department says there are 50 jobs that could be impacted by changes to the city's school nurse program.

Facing a 2 million dollar deficit due to the city pulling out of its 2 million dollar annual contribution to the 3.5 million dollar program budget, the Health Department is reaching out for support. The Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati has answered the call by working on a plan to continue services at a reduced cost.

They say they are also reaching out into the private sector in hopes of finding the financial support needed to keep the program running.

"We don't have a lot of time to raise the money and it will have to come in fairly sizable sums… If we can do it at all," foundation CEO Jim Schwab said.

The latest information about school nursing cuts shows a clear uphill battle.

"The goal is to provide roughly the same services at a reduced cost, knowing we'll give up something in that process," Schwab explained.

The foundation's plan on the table right now would eliminate 13 registered nurse positions and hire new district employees without medical schooling to pick up the slack under RN supervision.

The cutbacks leave many medical health professionals concerned about impacts on services.

"We're not Band-Aid nurses," RN Bill Robb said. "There's nothing wrong with that, I give out a bunch of Band-Aids every day, but it's the direct care that we provide to our students."

Westwood Elementary School RN Bill Robb spent his school's spring break Tuesday arguing for the need for RNs to remain in city schools.

"If it's ever disbanded and you don't have a registered nurse in that position you're going to lose a huge asset and the ability to care for these kids," Robb said.

In the midst of the concerns, the Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati announced plans to contribute $200,000 to the expected 2 million dollar deficit. Now Schwab says they will be taking their fundraising efforts to the streets.

"[I'll] put my selling shoes on and go into the community and see what I can do," Schwab said.

Under the proposed plan, Schwab says they expect the program will be able to provide 90 percent of the services they are offering now.

Schwab says the foundation will also be working on a long term plan for services that reaches beyond next school year.

The Health Department says they will also be working to change billing patterns for Medicaid to make better use of federal funding sources.

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