School-Based Health Center Program


About School-Based Health Centers

The legislation defines a SBHC as “a collaboration between the community, the school, and a sponsoring [healthcare] agency that operates the school-based health center, which is a student-focused health center located in or adjacent to a school that provides integrated medical, behavioral health, and other health care services such as dental care.” The healthcare sponsor can be a community clinic, hospital, healthcare system, public health department, locally controlled tribal health clinic, and/or tribal health program.

Washington State’s first SBHC program began in Seattle in 1989. Today, there are over 70 SBHCs by more than 25 health care sponsors throughout the state. You can find more information on SBHCs on the Washington School-Based Health Alliance website.

Expanding School-Based Health Centers and Access to Behavioral Health Care

The Washington State Legislature passed Substitute House Bill 1225 in 2021. The new law (RCW 43.70.825) directs the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) to establish a school-based health center (SBHC) program to expand and sustain the availability of SBHCs to students in public schools, with a focus on communities and populations who have been historically underserved. See the Grant Information page for more details.

In 2021, DOH requested additional support for the new SBHC Program to respond to the growing mental and behavioral health needs of young people. This included a request for funding to expand and improve behavioral health screening, referral and care for adolescents and transition-­age youth in both academic and non­academic settings, including in SBHCs. See the Behavioral Health SBHC Grant Information page for more details.

2022-2023 Highlights

In 2022, the SBHC program completed a Request for Applications and announced the first SBHC grant awards for organizations to plan, start-up, maintain operations, or improve behavioral health services at an SBHC in Washington.

Below are a few highlights from the 2022-2023 school year:

  • Over 3,000 medical visits completed by grant-funded SBHCs.
  • Over 4,000 behavioral health visits completed by grant-funded SBHCs.
  • Two new grant-funded SBHCs opened their doors.
  • All six planning grantees successfully completed a plan for starting a new SBHC.

You can read more in the 2023 implementation update fact sheet or read about the grantees’ projects on the SBHC Story Map.

SBHC Community Engagement

In 2022, DOH released a survey to gather information from SBHC partners across Washington on the SBHC grant program. See the 2022 SBHC Community Engagement Report for a summary of the survey responses.

DOH also launched the SBHC Community Advisory Board in spring 2023. The Community Advisory Board will share their thoughts, ideas, and recommendations on school-based health care and young people’s access to health care. Their work will help DOH’s SBHC program to make sure funding and activities are relevant and serve Washington’s young people.

The DOH SBHC program will continue to improve and expand the grant program based on feedback from SBHC grantees, partners, and the SBHC Community Advisory Board.