NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – In some New Mexico schools, kids have access to comprehensive healthcare right on the school grounds. Advocates say these in-school programs keep kids healthy, reduce absences, and give kids care their families couldn’t otherwise afford. Now, the state is asking lawmakers to boost much-needed funding and expand these programs.

“The funding has left the program in place where in 2006, there were about eight employees dedicated to school-based health centers. And currently, there are 1.2 employees in the Department of Health who are dedicated to school-based health centers,” Kristin Oreskovich, the clinical operations manager of school-based health care at the New Mexico Department of Health, told some state legislators Tuesday.

“The Department of Health will be seeking increased funding for school-based health centers for school year and fiscal year 2024 to expand and enhance school-based health centers across the state,” Oreskovich told members of the Legislative Health and Human Services Committee.

That committee is made up of a handful of lawmakers who ultimately have a big say in how healthcare gets funded in the state. In the lead-up to next January, when their lawmaking session will begin, these state senators and representatives will hear similar asks for increased funding for programs across the state.

Tuesday, Oreskovich, from the Department of Health, and Nancy Rodriguez, the executive director of the New Mexico Alliance for School-based Health Care, argued that New Mexico students need in-school care, perhaps now more than ever. They pointed to trauma and loss children are facing from wildfires, grief from losing caregivers to COVID-19, and increased fear of attack on LGBTQIA+ students.

The lawmakers won’t dole out any funding until next year’s budgeting process. But when the time comes around, if the Department of Health gets what they’re asking for, more New Mexico youth could have access to healthcare through in-school programs.

Additionally, NMDOH’s plan is to increase telehealth, or call-based options, for school kids. Doing all of this will provide healthcare to nearly 15,000 students, they say.