Princeton, N.J., February 4, 2002 — The burden of untreated mental and dental health problems for children is substantial. To expand the care available to children and youth, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) has awarded grants to fifteen organizations through a new program, Caring for Kids: Expanding Dental and Mental Health Services Through School-Based Health Centers. Administered by the Center for Health and Health Care in Schools (CHHCS) at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., the program will support eight projects to expand mental health services and seven to increase dental care in school-based health centers across the country.

Over the next three years, project sites (see attached list) will use the grants, each about $220,000, to test and promote new models to expand dental or mental health services in existing school-based health centers. Currently, there are more than 1,400 centers across the country.

Recent reports from the U.S. Surgeon General have highlighted the large number of children and youth who do not get the care they need for mental and dental health problems. For example, nine percent of children and youth need help with emotional problems and 75 percent of them are not being treated. An estimated five percent of children under 18 have untreated dental problems, with that percentage rising to 39 percent for African American children and 60 percent for Mexican-American children. An estimated 51 million hours of school are lost because of dental problems.

“School-based centers have been critical providers of health services for young people, particularly those who are uninsured,” said Julia Graham Lear, Ph.D., program director of Caring for Kids. “This program will expand the capacity of the funded centers to address these critical problems and help other centers learn more about organizing and financing mental and dental health services in schools.”

These fifteen Caring for Kids projects will focus on expanding services using established models as well as new approaches. Central to all the projects are partnerships with community-based providers and collaboration with parents and school administrators.

“The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has been investing in school-based health centers for more than a quarter of a century,” said Judith Stavisky, M.Ed., M.P.H., senior program officer at the Foundation. “We’re eager to test these new ideas in established centers to expand the range and improve the quality of available services for young people.”

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The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, based in Princeton, N.J., is the nation’s largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to health and health care. It concentrates its grantmaking in four goal areas: to assure that all Americans have access to basic health care at reasonable cost; to improve care and support for people with chronic health conditions; to promote healthy communities and lifestyles; and to reduce the personal, social and economic harm caused by substance abuse — tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drugs.

The Center for Health and Heath Care in Schools is a nonpartisan policy and program resource center located at The George Washington University. The Center explores ways to strengthen the well being of children and youth through effective health programs and health services in schools. More information is available on the Center’s web site: www.healthinschools.org or contact the Center directly at 1350 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 505, Washington, D.C. 20036.

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