School nurses facing uncertain future beyond Christmas

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Most kids are back in school now and have just a few months left, before funding for the remaining school nurses runs out.

In the meantime, some schools are getting creative about continuing a high-level of care, implementing health centers within certain schools.

We started this year with thirteen fewer nurses, now down to 26, who are sharing responsibilities between any number of schools.

And for kids who rely on their school nurse as their primary care source, the school nurse is their lifeline.

We went to the Oyler School in Price Hill to see what's working.

"Like I can't breathe and feel like dying!," said12-year-old Toby Crawford.

So he sees nurse Cathy Frank some times twice a day.

"Give me my treatment," said Crawford. "Help me with my asthma."

"This is called an aero chamber, and we do a puff, and he'll breathe in about 6 puffs until the first treatment is done," said Frank.

"It's uncomfortable for him not to have the treatment," she said.

Frank runs their school-based health center.

"A lot of our parents have medicaid, they don't have access, they don't have transportation, they don't have doctor's offices to go to," she said.

Their kids can get prescriptions filled and dispensed there, which cuts down big time on emergency room visits.

"I think it's way better," said mother of two, Bertha Dean, that having Nurse Cathy at school been a real blessing for her kids, Zachary and McKayla Tucker.

"Mostly when I have stomach aches," said McKayla, about when she visits the nurse.

"A trip to the ER is $800 dollars at least," Dean said. "So I'm not having to give out that money for the ER."

And without care, Frank said absenteeism would boom.

"It would shoot through the roof!," she said.

8th grader Daniel Barnes stops by the clinic before and after meals.

"He has juveniles type one diabetes," said his grandmother and guardian Janet Barnes. "They help regulate it, keep control of his sugar, his highs his lows."

"Check my sugar, then tell them what I'm eating and they write the carbs down and if my sugar's high, they'll calculate that and my carbs and put it in my pump," said Daniel Barnes.

The insulin pump, which he carries in his pocket, is surgically implanted.

"It tells me what my basal rate is, hourly, how much insulin is in here," said Barnes.

Without nurses, responsibility to dispense meds could fall on Principals like Oyler's Craig Hockenberry.

"Make this very clear," said Hockenberry emphatically. "No parent in the City of Cincinnati wants me to administer any medicine to their children, give their children any shots, that's not what I do, that's not what I'm trained to do, and I don't have to do it either."

And given the lagging economy.

"School-based health services make really good sense because it's putting the services where the students are most of the day," said Dr. Marilyn Crumpton with the Cincinnati Health Department.

"Do you want Principal Hockenberry to administer a shot to you?," we asked jokingly. "No," she giggled. "I think I'll pass!"

The next budget hearing, which you can attend and speak-up for keeping the school nurses, is August 31st, at the MSD building in Lower Price Hill.

So what's next for the school nurse program? CPS is committed to funding through the end of this school year. But, the City's money runs out December 31st, unless it's put back in the budget.

It's estimated, 75-percent of all CPS students fall below the poverty line.

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