This year, Christmas comes early for Durango School District 9-R.
On Wednesday, it was announced that the district had won a $485,000 grant from the Department of Health and Human Services.
The money will allow the district to expand its program of preventive care and offer more primary health services through its student-based health centers in schools.
The grant also will enable the district to furnish the Durango High School health center with a new entrance and build two additional exam rooms.
The grant is part of $200 million allocated through the School-Based Health Center Capital Program in the Affordable Care Act, often called “Obamacare.”
President Barack Obama signed the bill into law in 2010.
The Affordable Care Act became a lightning rod for GOP anger in the 2010 and 2012 elections, with Republicans rallying around the cry “repeal Obamacare.”
In a news release Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., congratulated Durango on the grant.
“The Affordable Care Act is helping thousands of Coloradans receive more accessible, affordable health care at every level,” Udall said in the release, which noted Udall had been a forceful supporter of Obamacare.
U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., also voted for the Affordable Care Act. In a news release Wednesday, he trumpeted the grant’s potential to improve the health and achievement of Durango’s schoolchildren.
“School-based health centers in Colorado like the center at Durango High School have proven to be invaluable for keeping our kids healthy, in the classroom and ready to learn,” Bennet said in the release. “These resources will help ensure the Durango School District has the resources they need to provide critical health care, including vital mental-health services, to our kids.”
In addition to Durango’s $485,000 grant, the School-Based Health Center Capital Program also awarded $500,000 to Denver Health and $37,000 to Commerce City Community Health Services.
Educators are certain the grant money is well spent in Durango.
In May, Sherrod Beall, director of the district’s Coordinated School Health Services, wrote that, because of a lack of funds, the services’ nurse-to-student ratio exceeded national recommendations.
With this grant, that ratio – like 9-R students – might get healthier.
“School Based Health Centers create an important safety net in children’s health care and academic performance by addressing health-care needs for underserved children,” 9-R Superintendent Daniel Snowberger said in a news release.
“This grant money will continue to allow us to offer comprehensive health care, including behavioral health services, to our student population, which is critical when addressing the negative association between increased health-risk behaviors and poor academic achievement,” Snowberger said.