PIKEVILLE, Ky. (WSAZ) -- With the possibility that the Pike County school nurse program may soon come to an end due to state funding cuts, the Pike County Board of Health has voted to file a lawsuit against the health insurance company, Kentucky Spirit.
The company allegedly owes the Board half of a million dollars, and board members say that money has to be reimbursed in order to provide school nurses.
Judge Executive Wayne T. Rutherford says the Medicaid Managed Care Program has stopped reimbursing the Board of Health for school nurse programs.
Pike County school nurses are employed through the health department.
“You have to have money to pay the nurses. Is it going to be taken away tomorrow? No. But we have to have a balanced budget at the end of the year,” said Rutherford.
“I don't know any reason that this debt shouldn’t be paid especially when services are dependent on those payments,” said Pike Co. Attorney Howard Keith Hall.
The Board of Health says without reimbursement school nurses could lose their jobs, which would leave hundreds of kids without immediate medical care.
Rutherford says one of the best parts of the nurse program is that it provides medical care to children who might have not gotten it otherwise.
“I think having someone in the school to ensure that our children are healthy is imperative for the quality of life of our kids especially in a very rural area.
Board members say they hope the funding is quickly reimbursed so that school nurses can stay put.
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Pike County school nurses are employed through the health department, and officials say state funding has been cut. Now they are running out of money to keep the nurses in place.
"They take care of our children as well as they would their own," said Pike County parent Becky Boyer whose daughter says her school nurse is like a second mom.
Officials with the Pike County Health Department say the Medicaid Manage Care Program is suing the state and stopped reimbursing them for the nurse programs.
"They are saying that they did not receive the correct information when they entered into the contract, and they're wanting to terminate the contract," said Interim Public Heath Director Cindy Hamilton.
Nurse Rhonda Conway says working in the schools in necessary especially for kids with chronic illnesses.
"There are kids here that if there was not a nurse here their parents would not let them come, and I feel like it's important that they get to be in school," said Conway.
Health department officials say all they can do is wait to see if funding returns.
"We've got the support of the Boards of Education, the Board of Health. Everyone wants it to continue," said Hamilton.
Officials say they might put the nurses on a part time program to keep them in schools as long as possible.
Health department officials say several other counties have already had to terminate their school nurse programs.
They are urging parents to contact local legislators to support the program.