JCPS launches district’s first school-based health-care clinic
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The Academy @ Shawnee today cut the ribbon on the district’s first school-based health clinic, improving student and staff access to comprehensive health services while reducing absences from school.

Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) partnered with Shawnee Christian Healthcare Center (SCHC) to open the Wellness Center @ Shawnee, which operates inside the school building. The clinic will be open from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday, and is available to all Academy students and staff.

“Our students spend six to seven hours a day, nine months a year, in our facilities, giving schools an unparalleled opportunity to impact children’s health,” said Dr. Donna Hargens, JCPS superintendent. “This innovative partnership will allow the Wellness Center @ Shawnee to not only identify and treat ailments, but provide preventative services, education and follow-up. And because those services are available on-site, the time away from school is greatly reduced.”

SCHC selected the Academy @ Shawnee for its first school-based health clinic to meet its goal of serving the Shawnee/Chickasaw neighborhoods that are medically underserved due to inadequate health insurance or limited access to care.

The clinic will be staffed by a nurse practitioner, who can treat symptoms, diagnose ailments, and prescribe many medications. Visitors to the clinic can be seen for sick visits, physicals, and preventative care visits, and prescriptions can be sent to the pharmacy of choice as needed.

“As a community health center, this partnership allows us to work alongside school staff, students, and parents to address student health, which can be one of the most significant noncognitive barriers to learning,” said Dr. Phyllis Platt, CEO of SCHC. “School-based health centers can play a key role in supporting students’ educational success through reduced absences and improved health. The student vote to name the school clinic the Wellness Center @ Shawnee is exciting to us as we look forward to not just treating illnesses but also promoting wellness.”

After each visit, students will receive a care summary, which can be shared with their primary care provider to help maintain a good line of health communication. Students will also be given a survey so they can rate their experience, providing important feedback to enhance services.

No student will be turned away because of an inability to pay. The project is being funded by federal and private grants, and a sliding fee discount program ensures that anyone who needs to be seen will have that opportunity. When students/staff are treated by the nurse practitioner, a claim will be filed with the individual’s health insurance, if available.

“This partnership will play a vital role in improving our students’ health, and ensuring they have the resources and supports they need to succeed in school,” said Venita Benboe, principal of the Academy @ Shawnee.

“Ten years ago, the Shawnee Christian Healthcare Center Board came together with members of the neighborhood to figure out how we could address health concerns and health disparities experienced by so many residents,” said Dr. David Dageforde, SCHC board chairman. “One of the most significant community assets we identified was the willingness to work together to solve problems. Now, 10 years later, we are expanding our health care clinic and opening the school clinic. The partnership with the school clinic opens the door for long-term impact to improve community health. We look forward to working with the Academy @ Shawnee and its students to lead the change in neighborhood health care.”

Research shows that school-based health centers help close health care and educational disparity gaps. They eliminate the transportation, availability, and location issues often faced by low-income and minority populations. Nationally, school-based clinics have also been shown to reduce the number of unnecessary emergency room trips and inpatient visits, prevent the spread of disease, and lower overall health-care costs. In addition, they are shown to improve educational outcomes, such as suspension rates, grade point average, grade promotion and graduation rates.