PIKEVILLE, Ky. — Parents in Pike County have always felt more secure with their children’s welfare while at school, knowing that a nurse was on the premises, should their child become ill or injured.
That sense of security may soon come to a close if funding issues are not resolved prior to the beginning of the 2013 school term.
Pike County school nurses are employed through the health department, and officials say state funding has been cut and they are running out of money to keep the nurses in place. This information has outraged parents across the county, especially those whose children suffer from chronic illnesses and diseases such as asthma and juvenile diabetes, and even more of a concern is the students who are special needs.
Without school nurses, teachers will have the added burden of making sure students are properly cared for when ill or injured, which means additional training for them. Officials with the Pike County Health Department say the Medicaid Manage Care Program is suing the state and stopped reimbursing them for the nurse programs.
“They are saying that they did not receive the correct information when they entered into the contract, and they want to terminate it instead of correcting the oversight,” said Interim Public Health Director Cindy Hamilton.
One Pike County Nurse, Rhonda Conway, says working in the schools in necessary especially for kids who suffer from illnesses which affect their daily lives.
“There are kids who attend there that if there was not a nurse in the school, their parents would not let them come. I feel like it’s important that they get to be in school and receive an education the same as a child who is not ill,” said Conway.
The Daily News spoke with Rebecca Blankenship, the mother of an 8 year-old who was diagnosed with Type 1 (Juvenile) Diabetes prior to his seventh birthday, and has been insulin dependent for a little over a year. Although her child has an insulin pump which reportedly regulates his blood sugar levels better than shots, he has still experienced episodes where his levels bottomed out, which is extremely dangerous.
“Having a nurse readily available is so important to me,” stated the concerned mother. “I work approximately 50 miles from his school so me getting there quickly if something goes wrong is out of the question. The nurse is well aware of his condition and has handled problems with his diabetes in the past. If we no longer have her at the school, I’m not sure what I will do. It puts my son’s health and welfare in jeopardy and I can tell you I am not good with that.”
“If you ask me personally, I will tell you right off the bat that having a school nurse is a lot more important than some of the other positions and extra-curricular activities the Board of Education spends money on. Cut other programs if you have to, but leave the nurses in place. It could easily mean the difference between life and death for a child’s whose health is compromised,” said Blankenship.
Health department officials say all they can do is wait to see if funding returns.
“We’ve got the support of the Boards of Education and the Board of Health. Everyone wants it to continue,” said Hamilton.
Officials say they may put the nurses on a part time program to keep them in schools as long as possible. Health department officials say several other counties have already had to terminate their school nurse programs due to a lack of funding. They are urging parents to contact local legislators and the Pike County B.O.E. to voice their support for the program.