Representatives from School District 51 and MarillacHealth visited Central High School on Friday to celebrate the opening of the district’s first school- based health center.
The need for the medical clinic was identified after several teen suicides in 2017 and a report from Colorado Health Institute, which pinpointed three District 51 schools as having at-risk school populations, according to a release from District 51.
An advisory committee was formed to study the issue. It held several focus groups and sought input from families. Ultimately, a school-based health center was recommended.
“I cannot say how proud we are,” said Dr. Jolene Joseph, chief operating officer for MarillacHealth. “The partnerships and really the collegial efforts that we’ve had across the community, the collaboration has been amazing. We’ve had a number of partners at the table literally for two years.”
MarillacHealth will operate the clinic, which was constructed with grant funding, and will offer physical health services, as well as mental and dental health, Joseph said. They will also play a part in educating students about medical issues.
“A lot of screening and preventative work is going to be done so that we can get a gauge where the students are and what their true needs are and then get them access to services if we cannot provide it here,” Joseph said. “We are not a replacement to their primary care provider, if they have a pediatrician. What we are is an ancillary support.”
Central High School Principal Lanc Sellden said having the clinic open now has been a bright spot as the school prepares to welcome students back. It had been scheduled to open last year, but was postponed because of coronavirus.
“We were all prepared for its opening in March,” Sellden said. “When it didn’t happen, we kind of went OK, now what do we do? Now that it is here again, it kind of brings back some of that excitement and what it can mean for our kids.”
Central High was chosen as the location because there aren’t many other options nearby for students to access medical care, Sellden said. Other schools are nearer to medical offices and clinics.
By having that access in the school, Sellden said that would make it easier to ensure students are getting the care they need.
“We’ve got some amazing counselors that work with our kids, but when it gets to that certain point where we need to be taking those next steps, the sad thing is we have to tell a student or talk to a parent and say, ‘Contact this person. Make an appointment,’” Sellden said. “Now we can just walk across the hall and the student can come in from time to time on an appointment basis if they need it for a short period.”
Assistant Superintendent Brian Hill said providing access to a health center on the school’s campus would provide enhanced support for students.
“Our schools are the center and the hub of our communities,” Hill said. “Every day our schools provide education, but they also provide food services, counseling services, nursing services, transportation. So this is just one more way a school can provide extra support for our students and our families, and it’s great that it’s housed here on our campus for our Central High School students.”
Joseph said she hoped the clinic would add to the district’s mission of getting its students to complete high school and graduate. She said the students’ mental and physical health is a part of that.
“We have had this conversation in play for a number of years, knowing and recognizing we want to reduce the suicide rate within the valley,” Joseph said. “We want to be a partner in ensuring our kids are healthier and they are staying in the classroom and they are graduating.”