The El Camino Healthcare District is planning to dish out $6.3 million to local organizations to help improve health services for people in the greater community, according to the district's 2015 Community Benefit Plan.
A slight drop from the $6.6 million distributed last year, the grant money will go to school districts, health organizations and clinics in Mountain View, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Sunnyvale and part of Cupertino.
Each year, the taxpayer-funded district sets aside income from its property tax revues for the Community Benefit Plan. This money is used to provide additional funding to programs, nonprofit organizations and public institutions that can improve access to health care services and make a dent in "persistent unmet health needs in the district," according to the plan.
Though the presentation and a press release from the district say that "more than $6.3 million" will be spent on the plan, the maximum dollar amount spent cannot exceed $6,321,527.
Spending is split up into four categories: healthcare access, mental health, obesity reduction and health literacy. The healthcare access grants include over $200,000 to both Sunnyvale and Mountain View Whisman school districts, a slight increase from last year, which will continue to boost the underfunded school nurse programs at both districts.
Before receiving grant money, the Sunnyvale School District only had one nurse to serve roughly 6,500 students -- way off the ratio of one nurse per 750 students suggested by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. With the grant money, the district was able to hire two additional, full-time school nurses.
"We now have cut that ratio to one in about 2,300 students, which is still a pretty hefty case-load but much improved from the ratio we had previously," Picard told the board.
But the goals in the Community Benefit Plan are far more specific than just "hire more nurses" for the school districts. The plan cites ongoing problems and a list of suggested ways the grant money can be used to deal with them.
For example, the Mountain View Whisman School District continues to have attendance problems related to uncontrolled, chronic illness of students, which in turn affects their education. The grant money, which increased from $195,000 to $214,000 this year, will bring more health services to students with chronic health conditions as well as students with limited access to healthcare. This includes outreach to make sure students who fail health screenings follow-up with a health provider.
The Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District will also receive $160,000 in grants this year, which will focus on the mental health needs of high school students. According to the plan, truancy and attendance issues, as well as worsening depression and anxiety, all need to be addressed by the district through mental health and behavioral support programs.
The high school district is one of eight grant recipients that focuses on mental health, which has been an ongoing problem for schools and social services, according to community benefits director Barbara Avery.
"This is an area that we hear so many agencies are concerned about," Avery said at the board meeting. "Social service agencies, RotaCare and school nurses are concerned about this issue."
Avery used comments from the Community Health Awareness Council (CHAC) to describe how middle and high school students grapple with mental health issues and anxiety, which can lead to poor school performance, self-mutilation and thoughts of suicide.
The culprit? Avery described a slough of problems including domestic violence, bullying, cyber-bullying, and even gangs and homelessness.
"What our partners are telling us is that the prevalence of gangs and homelessness is a lot more pronounced than perhaps I think we knew," Avery said.
On top of grant money to two CHAC programs, this year's plan adds a new grant recipient -- Next Door Solutions to Domestic Violence. The program, which offers a shelter for battered women and their children and provides support groups for intervention and education, will get $50,000 in grants in the coming year.