Students at Rogers High School will have access this fall to their own school-based health center run by the Community Health Association of Spokane.
The center, expected to open in November, will provide a wide variety of health care services to students, including medical, behavioral and dental care as well as offer connections to community programs. It is made possible by a grant from Kaiser Permanente.
Lori Wyborney, principal at Rogers High School, said she’s wanted a clinic in the school for years.
“We’ve been trying to do this for a long time, probably since 2012, so we’re super-excited to finally get this approved and have the grant and get going,” she said.
The clinic will be housed in the early childcare room of the high school’s teaching academy, which will be moved right across the hall. The school-based health center will be accessible to the public and the community through a separate entry, and Wyborney expects a lot of construction this summer to get the clinic open.
CHAS applied for a grant from Kaiser Permanente to open the health center earlier this year. Kaiser Permanente awarded CHAS a three-year, $590,000 grant to get the clinic up and running. A handful of neighborhood councils also voted to pool some of their federal funding toward the project as well, accounting for another $165,000. CHAS will provide the staffing and coordinate with Spokane Public Schools programs already operating at Rogers.
Research shows that school-based health centers can improve student outcomes in the classroom as well as their personal health.
“It actually helps impact indicators of success both from an academic and a health care perspective,” Kelly Stanford, vice president of clinical operations for Kaiser Permanente in Eastern Washington, said. “So grades and attendance and graduation rates (improve) as well as reducing hospitalization.”
Wyborney hopes the clinic will help increase attendance at Rogers High School. In 2015, when students were forced to stay home if they hadn’t gotten up-to-date vaccinations, Wyborney said 87 of her students were forced to stay home.
“We get a high number of kids with the flu because they don’t have access to flu shots,” she said. “We have a high number of kids with respiratory and cold things. … That clinic will be able to cut down on some of that and help with attendance.”
While many logistics are still in the works, Wyborney said her understanding is that all students will be able to access health care at the school-based health center, regardless of what kind of health insurance they have, if they have it at all. In recent years, Wyborney said that the school’s athletic trainer is often referring students to a doctor outside of school, but now he won’t have to.
“It will be good that he will be able to say, ‘Hey you should go see the doctor in the clinic,’ ” she said. “And my guess is that’s how this will really start for us: … He will start directing kids to the clinic because they almost always go to him first.”
Ideally, students will miss less class time by accessing care during school hours.
“Our hope is that kids will be able to get appointments and get what they need done and go right back to class,” Wyborney said.
The new school-based health center could enable more students to access dental care as well as mental health services at school. Currently, Rogers High School has two therapists at the school, but Wyborney hopes this grant will open up mental health services to more of her students.
“We definitely need more,” she said. “What we have isn’t enough. It’s a number one issue.”
Kathryn Alexander, chair of the Bemiss Neighborhood council, thinks the health center is a great idea.
“One of the nice things about the CHAS clinic is that it will serve more than one neighborhood,” she said.
The Rogers High School health center will eventually be open to more than just students, allowing staff, parents and siblings to access care there, too. Rogers will have a corner of its building dedicated to community services and health care going forward, thanks to the new health center.
“It should be a really great place for not just our students but also our wraparound services,” Wyborney said.
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