By: Erica Fatima
Emory University’s PARTNERS for Equity in Child and Adolescent Health in the Department of Pediatrics, along with renowned service providers HEAL and Southside Medical Center, has selected Atlanta Public Schools’ Dobbs and Miles elementary schools to open school-based health centers (SBHCs) at each location. The new health centers will serve students, families, and community members in the Mays and South Atlanta high school clusters. This project is being underwritten by a $400,000 grant from the Jesse Parker Williams Foundation to provide additional SBHCs throughout Atlanta.
Following the 20-year success of the SBHC at Whitefoord Elementary School, APS leadership began a concerted effort in the fall of 2014 to implement more school-based health centers in areas considered “medical deserts,” where thousands of school-aged children have limited access to comprehensive health services because of financial, geographical and other barriers to care.
“I recognize that some of our students and families face significant barriers when trying to access health services. This partnership strengthens our ability to deliver quality wrap-around services, especially in communities of high need,” said Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Meria J. Carstarphen, Ed.D. “And data supports what we already know—if students have good health care related to physical, dental, vision and even mental health, over time, student attendance and academic achievement increases. The SBHCs support our efforts to ensure all of our students are college and career ready.”
The new centers are anticipated to open on August 3, 2016, the first day of school and will operate separately from the school. Highly trained, qualified physicians, pediatricians, dentists, nurses, nurse practitioners and physician assistants, as well as, health educators and social workers will staff each SBHC. They will treat all levels of acute and chronic illness along with providing a full range of diagnostic testing, preventive care and disease management for asthma, diabetes and obesity.
Dr. Veda Johnson, associate professor and director of PARTNERS said, “Students learn best when they are healthy, present and connected to the school emotionally and socially. School-based health centers, when integrated into the school system, expand the role of the school nurse and assist teachers and school administrators in their instructional duties. SBHCs can reduce health disparities (i.e. mental health, asthma) and provide holistic wrap-around services for challenged and underperforming students and their families.”
Tammie Workman, assistant superintendent of student services for APS adds: “By serving students, families, and community members, we envision the SBHCs will be true community centers that provide much needed health care and will positively change the trajectory for our APS communities dealing with a myriad of health barriers.”
The SBHCs at Dobbs and Miles elementary schools are designated Federally Qualified Community Health Centers and will accept Georgia Better Health Care, Medicaid, Peach Care and private insurance. Fees are determined on a sliding scale based on income so that quality health care is accessible and affordable.
Dr. David Williams, Southside Medical Center’s (SMC) president and CEO, expressed his enthusiasm for the new health centers, “SMC was one of the earlier advocates for the SBHC model some 20 years ago, but at that time student enrollment simply did not support the relatively large investment for our then 30 years young community medical center. Today, the circumstances are quite different. With this crucial grant funding, SMC is no longer alone; we now have much needed support from committed partners APS, Emory University, and the Jesse Parker Williams Foundation. We are confident that we now have an effective SBHC delivery opportunity.”
For more information about services successfully provided at the Whitefoord Elementary School SBHC, visit: http://whitefoord.org/health-services/