School-based health centers (SBHCs) and wellness centers are as individual as the students they serve and are supported by many communities because they respond to local needs. Accordingly, the operations and financing of SBHCs depend upon local resources and partnerships.

The most common organizations serving as the health care provider and sponsor of SBHCs in California are community health centers, school districts, county health departments, hospitals/medical centers, mental health agencies, nonprofit community-based organizations, and private physician groups.

SBHCs are funded, in part, through third-party reimbursement through programs such as: 

  • Medi-Cal (this includes Medi-Cal managed care plans, the CHDP Gateway program, LEA Medi-Cal Billing Option Program, and other special programs such as Presumptive Eligibility Medi-Cal and Minor Consent Medi-Cal)
  • Family PACT
  • Private health insurance 
  • County specialty mental health contracts (often referred to as “EPSDT”)

In addition to reimbursement for services, SBHCs are also commonly funded through grants and contracts from government and private foundations, in-kind subsidies from school districts and lead agencies, and donations.

The most financially successful SBHCs often have some source of “base funding” that is continuous from year to year which helps cover non-reimbursable costs such as classroom education, coordination and care for the uninsured. 

The federal health care reform program, the Affordable Care Act – also known as “Obamacare” – provided a financial boost for SBHCs. The law outlined $200 million over four years for the construction of and equipment for SBHCs. It was the first time in history that SBHCs received a dedicated federal funding stream.

Between 2011 and 2012, California received $30 million through 70 grants to build and expand SBHCs.

Read this fact sheet on how some school districts are funding their SBHC.