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Western Heights may pilot health center program

August 21, 2000

Western Heights may pilot health center program



By TARA REILLY / Staff Writer


Washington County public schools might set up a pilot school-based health center at Western Heights Middle School under a program geared toward low-income children.

School system administrators said they are pursuing a $125,000 grant from the state Office of Children, Youth and Families to cover start-up costs.

About 1,200 to 1,400 square feet of space at Western Heights would be needed for the center. Administrators have said the school could provide the space if existing office space were renovated. Renovations, which would include new offices, examination rooms, a reception area, sinks and conference space, could cost about $84,000.

The $125,000 grant also would cover a portion of renovation costs. The remaining costs would be covered by additional grants.

The centers, also called "Wellness Centers," provide physical and mental health services to children in need of care. There are more than 1,300 of the centers across the United States, including more than 50 in schools in Maryland.

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If implemented in Western Heights, the center would provide traditional school health services, care for common childhood illnesses and diagnosis and referral for more complex issues, care for uninsured children, mental health counseling, substance counseling, case management, prescriptions for acute diagnoses, support groups and parent education on health issues, according to the school system. Contraception will not be handed out to students.

A team of nurse practitioners, clinical social workers, mental health providers and physicians would make up the center's staff.

Records of the children who visit the center would be sent to their primary health care providers, the board said.

School administrators claim low-income children often don't have the resources needed to visit doctors, making illnesses more frequent. A school-based center would make health visits more accessible to children in need, they said.

"Children who are not healthy are not able to be in school ready to learn," according to information released by Martha Roulette, the school system's director of student services.

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