Lack of students means financial woes for Health Center

The financial situation facing California community colleges is taking a toll on the amount of services provided by the Health Center.


Because the school has been forced to make cuts on classes and enrollment, there are less people paying the mandatory $11 health fee that funds the resource.


“As headcount drops, the [amount of money collected through the health fee] drops,” said Beth Benne, the director of the Health Center. “It’s bad. It’s been horrible in the state for over a year, but it’s only hitting us this semester.”


The Health Center is $90,000 short of its projected income, according to Benne.


Because of this, the Health Center is considering a number of actions – like pursuing other avenues of money and cutting the amount of services it provides – to help it stay afloat.




Referrals could save Health Center


One of the options the Health Center is considering is utilizing their service of referring low-income students to California Medical Assistance Program (Medi-Cal)-accepting medical centers, hospitals, and doctors.


Federal “advertising money for Medi-Cal” is provided to entities, people, and schools that provide the aforementioned referral, according to Benne.


“We can get credit that would somehow turn into money,” she said.


This is the first time a college department in the Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD) will be trying out this program.


The Health Center personnel will be undergoing training Wednesday morning to learn how to do a time study that will determine the average number of referrals made each week.


The results will be evaluated at the end of the month, following a time study.


“We’re trying to see what kind of funds we can generate,” said Benne. “We’re praying for $15,000 a quarter.”


If the time study doesn’t show enough referrals to generate a significant amount of money, the Health Center might decide to forgo the program entirely.


Should the program succeed, however, the money given will be unrestricted, meaning that it isn’t set aside for a particular project or department. Pierce’s administrators will decide which department they want to spend the money on.


According to Benne, Vice President of Student Services Joy McCaslin promised her that all the money would go to the Health Center.


“I will not allow the money the Health Center works hard for to go to other departments,” said Benne. “I’d rather not do it.”


If the program proves to be a success, other departments might follow the Health Center’s lead, she said.


“They’re all waiting to see if we can expand it,” said Benne.


It will take approximately 10 to 12 months in order to get the money if the Health Center pursues this program. In the meantime, any shortage of cash will be resolved through the Health Center’s reserved funds.


“At least we’ll know that we’re going to have money for the future,” said Benne.


Though this will be a pilot program in the LACCD, there are colleges in other districts that are currently using it.


The Student Health and Wellness Center in Santa Clarita-based College of the Canyons (COC), for instance, has been receiving money since 2005, according to Gayle Freund, the health center’s program specialist.


COC gets approximately $30,000 each quarter, but because the money is divided between five different departments, their health center gets half of the amount, according to Freund.


“It’s extremely effective and positive,” said Freund.


These results encourage Pierce’s Health Center staff members.


“We’re just going to take it one step at a time,” said Loralyn Frederick, the Student Health Center assistant. “We’re hoping it will help us continue our services for the students.”




Less services might be down the road


If the program doesn’t succeed at Pierce, the Health Center will be forced to cut services come fall semester 2012, said Benne.


“Right now, we’re keeping [the spring semester] as it is,” she said. “We just have to figure out what to do from there.”


One of the options Benne is considering is to decrease the number of days the Health Center will be open.


“We might have to close on Fridays,” she said. “Right now, we need to be able to afford 58 hours of operation. We just can’t afford it.”


The Health Center was open during the winter intercession, despite the fact that Pierce did not offer classes. According to Benne, operations cost $13,000 in salaries alone, but only 100 people used the health services.


“I hated the idea of 7 weeks of no care,” said Benne. “I felt like it was too long to go without anything.”




Quote roll:


“The budget is dependant upon a projection of income, not what you have.” – Beth Benne, Student Health Center director.


“[The district’s analysts] tell us our worst financial year is coming.” – Benne


“All I need is an increase in the head count to do better.” – Benne


“I knew this was coming. It was only a matter of time. “ – Benne


“I wasn’t worried a year and a half ago. Now I’m worried. “ – Benne


“[The students] pay me through the $11. I work for you.” – Benne

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