School-Based Health Centers Program Description

New York State Department Of Health
School-Based Health Centers

September, 2010

Thousands of school age children in New York State have limited access to comprehensive health services because of financial, geographical and other barriers to care. School-based health centers (SBHCs) can improve access to primary care for underserved children and youth. SBHCs bring comprehensive primary care services to the place where children and youth are during the day and address critical health problems that make it difficult for students to learn.


To increase the accessibility and availability of quality primary and preventive physical and mental health care services to preschool, elementary, middle and secondary school students in high-risk areas of New York State.


This program was established in recognition of the need to improve primary and preventive health care of children in low-income, high-risk communities. Since 1981, state, federal and private foundation funds have been used to develop and implement projects to provide these expanded school health services for pre-school and school age children through health teams composed of nurse practitioners, physician assistants, community health aides, collaborating physicians, social workers, psychologists, collaborating psychiatrists, health educators, nutritionists, dentists and dental hygienists.


  • To promote good physical and mental health;
  • To prevent illness leading to disability and hospitalization;
  • To improve the delivery of primary and preventive healthcare services by ensuring that they are accessible, coordinated, comprehensive, collaborative and skilled for all children and youth, including those with special health care needs;
  • To facilitate learning and improved school attendance; and
  • To promote healthy living by providing school-based primary and preventive health care to medically underserved youth through community partnerships that include community health care providers and school districts.

Program Activities

  • Provide comprehensive school health services;
  • Provide on-site management of chronic, disabling conditions (e.g. asthma);
  • Assure continuity of care by making staff and services available at the school, back-up facility and coordination with HMO's;
  • Educate parents and guardians to the need for preventive health care;
  • Use positive youth development approach in developing programs intended to reduce risk behaviors;
  • Provide on-site services at no cost to students but access appropriate Medicaid and other third party reimbursement to enable cost-effective health care; and
  • Refer children with special needs to appropriate community resources.


SBHCs offer comprehensive age-appropriate primary health and mental services including:

  • comprehensive physical health and mental health assessments;
  • diagnosis and treatment of acute illnesses and chronic conditions (e.g. asthma);
  • screenings (e.g., vision, hearing, dental, nutrition, TB);
  • routine management of chronic diseases (e.g. asthma and diabetes);
  • health education;
  • mental health counseling and referral;
  • immunizations;
  • working papers and sports physicals;
  • referral and follow up; and
  • population-based primary prevention.

Services are provided on site by a multi-disciplinary team consisting of a mid-level practitioner, a mental health counselor, and a medical assistant in consultation with a physician. The community health center or hospital that sponsors the school-based health center ensures 24 hour/7 day a week access to care to assure continuity of care when school is closed.


All children and youth in schools with a school-based health center who have a signed parental consent form are eligible to receive services.

For more information contact:

School Health Unit
Bureau of Child Health
New York State Department of Health
Empire State Plaza
Corning Tower Building, Room 878
Albany, NY 12237
Phone: (518) 474-1961