From the Field

Research Notes: In-School Health Centers Reduce Suspensions

Major philanthropists Melinda French Gates and Mackenzie Scott kicked off 2024 with a combined donation of $23 million to the School-Based Health Alliance, which supports school-based health centers and care coordinators in schools. Scott’s one-time, unrestricted award of $7 million will enhance SBHA’s technical support for groups opening school-based health centers and support measuring their impact.

A solid body of research has already established that school-based health centers increase access to care. Recent research has refined that understanding to show the presence of a school-based health center is associated with greater continuity of care, more families with health insurance, and more frequent dental visits.

Now, new research by Anjali Pai of the University of California, San Diego suggests that school-based health centers can help reduce suspensions.

Pai merged survey data on SBHCs from the California School-Based Health Alliance with data on suspensions and student demographics from the California Department of Education and found that new school-based health centers decreased student suspension rates within three years of the centers’ opening, particularly for “disruptive behavior,” suggesting a positive relationship between the school-based centers and student mental health.

She found that the opening of an on-site health center was associated with a 27 percent decline in suspension rates, with the greatest improvement taking place among male students. And she proposes that further research focus on isolating the direct effect of school-based health centers on mental health.

The Effect of School-Based Health Centers on Adolescent Mental Health and Behavior

Anjali Pai

November 23, 2023