As part of our celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Community Health Center Movement we are showcasing the unique ways that Community Health Centers deliver care to special populations. Among those populations are children, who all too often miss out on accessing primary care because of where they live, are uninsured or their families cannot afford care. Thankfully, health centers can fill that gap, partnering students’ needs for a full range of age-appropriate healthcare services that typically include primary medical care, mental/behavioral healthcare, dental/oral health care, health education and promotion, substance abuse counseling, case management and nutrition education. Nationally, school based health centers care for more than 475,000 patients and counting.
School-based health centers make sense for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that children learn better because they are healthier. That is why Tri-Cities Community Health, located in Washington state, recently launched two school based health clinics, one adjacent to an elementary school in Kennewick and the other is on the grounds of a middle school in Pasco. “This is a way to provide easier access for children to receive necessary services, ranging from physicals, immunizations, preventive care and treatment of minor illnesses,” explained Tri-Cities Community Health CEO Al Cordova.
Most school based health centers operate on site, but in South Carolina, there is a school based health center on wheels. Beaufort-Jasper-Hampton Comprehensive Health Services (BJHCHS) has just launched a new mobile health unit that travels around to Hampton County schools so students can get healthcare on the spot. The unit has two stations on board–one for medical exams and the other for dental care which aims to serve more than 850 students per year.
School based health centers are also catching on in rural California, according to a recent article in California Health Line. There are 231 school-based health centers in the state, most were concentrated in urban areas but now rural towns, such Livingston, located in the Central Valley, are realizing the need. At Livingston High School, for instance, in Merced County, more than 90 percent of students come from low-income working families. Access to care can pose a challenge for kids with both parents working at low-wage jobs. Livingston Community Health had an active relationship with the school and proposed a partnership as the next logical step.
“We have a lot of mental health issues, stressors from poverty,” explained principal Ralph Calderon to California Health Line. “There are an inordinate amount of students with anxiety disorders that sometimes turn into full-blown panic attacks. These are things we want to try to get addressed.” The article notes that Livingston High School is the smallest school in the district, but makes three times the number of ambulance calls as other high schools.
Federal support has helped boost the number of school based health centers in both rural and urban areas, and for good reasons. Studies show that having a school-based health center improves attendance, reduces the dropout rate and hospitalizations. There are nearly 2,000 school-based health centers that operate nationwide, according to the most recent National Assembly on School-Based Health Care census, and most are open every day school is in session.
To learn more visit this link at the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).