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District drops plan to outsource health services

By Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on Oct 22, 2015 04:33 PM

In May, the Philadelphia School District asked for outside proposals to help it provide better health services in schools without raising its medical budget.

The District received six proposals, but has now decided not to act on any of them.

"Some of what we found out was: We need to find out more," said Karyn Lynch, chief of student services for Philadelphia schools.

Lynch said that each of the pitches had flaws that kept the District from moving forward. For example, one proposal would have concentrated behavioral health services to a solitary provider. The District believes that would break federal regulations for public medical assistance.

The District had help reviewing proposals from the Philadelphia Department of Health, Community Behavioral Health (a nonprofit provider of mental health services), certified school nurses, Drexel's School of Nursing, Public Citizens for Children & Youth, as well as school-based leaders and parents.

The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers praised the District's decision, calling its request for proposals "a privatization scheme."

"The PFT will continue to call on the District to ensure that every child in every school has access to a full-time certified school nurse," union president Jerry Jordan said in a statement.

Many District schools do not have a full-time medical professional five days a week.

Three Philadelphia schools have no nursing services at all because the District says it has had trouble filling vacancies. Of the 184 nursing positions the District hopes to staff this year, six remain unfilled. Many other schools have a nurse only a few days each week.

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