An Alameda County bond measure passed this year primarily to shore up Highland Hospital will now be used to put three nurses in Berkeley public schools.
BUSD Director Shirley Issel announced at last week’s board of directors meeting that Measure A money would be used to fund the nurses.
While public debate has centered on the 75 percent of the bond measure funds earmarked for the Alameda County Medical Center (generally Highland Hospital), the remaining funds are being allocated by the Alameda County Board of Supervisors for, among other things, “critical medical services provided by community-based health care providers” as well as for “essential public health services.”
“Clearly, school nurse services fall under that category,” Issel said following the meeting.
She also issued a statement through BUSD’s public information office, stating that “the ‘health gap’ is one cause of the achievement disparities we see in our schools. This school nurse initiative by our public health department which will place public health nurses in our schools represents a triumph of interagency partnership between Berkeley Unified School District, the City of Berkeley and Alameda County Health Care Services Agency and Public Health Department. I am immensely grateful for this essential help.”
In addition, Issel said that the school district was pursuing funding for mental health nurses in Berkeley’s schools under the recently passed Proposition 63 measure to fund expanded health services for mentally ill children, adults, seniors.
Cost of the Measure A program is expected to be $450,000. In addition, City of Berkeley Health Officer Dr. Poki Stewart Namkung said if that the Berkeley City Health Department can leverage that Measure A money for an additional $400,000 in federal Maternal and Child Health Title V dollars, the added funds can bring the total of school health nurses up to six.
BUSD Public Information Officer Mark Coplan said that while the use of Measure A funds for school nurses seemed like a “no brainer,” it involved intense lobbying of the Board of Supervisors to counter proposals that the money focus on emergency rooms and clinics. Coplan said that Issel, Namkung, BUSD Superintendent Michele Lawrence, Berkeley PTA Council president Roia Ferrazares, BSEP manager Monica Thyberg, the mayor’s office, parents, and “all of the BUSD principals” were involved in the lobbying campaign for the nursing funds.
Coplan said that details of how the new school nursing program will work as well as when it will begin will be released at a later date.c