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Wellness centers help healthy students achieve

May 14, 2007|by RUTH ANNE CALLAHAM

Editor's note: Once a month, Washington County Board of Education members and school staff will use this space to write about school system issues. This month's column is written by School Board member Ruth Anne Callaham.




"Healthy Students Achieve" is not only a concept most of us relate to easily, it is prominently displayed on the Williamsport High School wellness center information packet.

It's true the better we feel physically and mentally, the more we get out of the day and the more productive we are.

For years, schools have worked hard to provide food for thought - a healthy breakfast followed by a healthy lunch. Now, we are combining the healthy eating with a holistic view of a student's health. We are working to increase the amount of professional health assistance in the schools. The result is a robust community partnership between Washington County Public Schools and the Washington County Health Department, a partnership that provides funding and staff to school-based wellness centers.

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Wellness centers are a paradigm change for us old school folks - a step into the 21st century, bringing essential health-care services to a location most convenient to those who need them.

Three schools in Washington County have school-based wellness centers - Williamsport High School, South Hagerstown High School and Western Heights Middle School. The people are friendly, and the walls are bright and well-appointed with helpful information. It is a place where students receive free medical services just for the asking. Every child in the school is entitled to services, whether or not they have a family doctor, and whether or not they have medical insurance. The focus of the health center is the well-being of our youth.

Wellness centers differ from traditional school health programs in that they provide extended services for the convenience of students and their families. The wellness center staff works in cooperation with children's doctors.

Services are free and include, but are not limited to, evaluation and treatment of acute illness and injury, health assessments, on-site mental health counseling/mental health referrals, weight management/counseling, preventive health services and health education. The Washington County Health Department practitioner communicates with parents and primary-care providers regarding the treatment plan.

To take advantage of the services, children and their parents/guardians complete an enrollment form one time and update it annually. The form is very much like those we complete for our doctors. It is important to note that no child will be denied services because of inability to pay.

Folks will need to provide consent to bill their insurance with the understanding that they will not be responsible for any additional payment. If students do not have a doctor, the wellness center staff can assist in obtaining one. If a student does not have health insurance, the staff will assist in an application to the Maryland Children's Health Program.

Healthy children do achieve. Thanks to the efforts of Washington County Public Schools and the Washington County Health Department, more children will have the opportunity to enjoy good health and achievement.

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