Student and Community Health Flourishes With School-based Clinics

Oregon School-based Health Alliance conference celebrates 75 certified school-based health centers in 21 Oregon counties accepting most insurance including OHP and offering services for free to those without insurance.

The Milwaukie High School Health & Wellness Center operated by the nonprofit Outside In promises “real help right here” to let youth learn by improving their physical and emotional health.

“We gave them a community and a place to flourish,” said Fawn McCool, behavioral health counselor.

Scott T. initially came to the center with girl troubles but found friends and skills in a cooking class, coordinated with the Oregon Food Bank. He learned to make “healthy, fancy quesadillas,” and was able to bring home a bag full of groceries with every ingredient needed to prepare the same meal at home.

Viviana “V” E. showed up “when life was taking a painful turn” as a quiet kid recently relocated from Seattle. “I knew I needed some support” she said but got much more – like glasses. “I got these for free,” pointing to her new eyewear. “And they look good.”

A female empowerment group provided a safe space for girls to connect with other girls and helped them develop self-confidence to lobby legislators for more school-based health centers.

In rural Independence, Oregon, a town that is 70 percent Spanish-speaking and where “OHP is not an option” for many migrant workers and their families, the Central Health and Wellness Center certified school-based health center opened in July, said Brent DeMoe, manager of Polk County Family & Community Outreach.

Salem Health’s West Valley Hospital offers medical care, with dental care through Capitol Dental, while the county handles mental health and addiction services.

The same building houses child care through Western Oregon University and Community Action Head Start so teen moms can remain in school.

The district donated a building across the street opening next month to house social services ranging from the Salvation Army, Community Action Agency, Mano-a-Mano Family Services, Catholic Community Services, a Goodwill jobs program and a branch of the Oregon Department of Human Services.

Although DeMoe said the “school board was cautious” at first, a feasibility study and survey among students, parents, teachers and the faith community showed a desperate need.

Faubion Pre-K-8 is a Portland Public School serving a population that is 30 percent African American and 30 percent Latino. “These are the poorest kids in Portland,” said Sarah Sweitzer, dean of the College of Health & Human Services, “102 steps from Concordia University.”

Starting with a single art class taught by Concordia students, the relationship between the two schools grew. Soon they will be partners in a full early childhood center and wellness center.

’We didn’t want to build something to build something. I want to build something people want,” said Julie Dodge, assistant professor of social work in the College of Health and Human Services.

A large community engagement process includes a youth council of “fifth, sixth and seventh graders telling us what to do,” she said.

Jan can be reached at janjohnson6@earthlink.net.

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