On Tuesday, September 10, a long-awaited 2,000 square-foot School-Based Health Center opened on the Rochester City School District Frederick Douglass Campus, 940 Fernwood Park. The grand opening included remarks by RCSD Superintendent Bolgen Vargas, University of Rochester President Joel Seligman and Deputy Mayor Leonard Redon, a ribbon-cutting and tours. Local legislators, students, parents and other members of the community also attended.
The Center represents a partnership between the City School District, the University of Rochester School of Nursing and the University of Rochester Medical Center. Its aim is to improve the health and well-being of young people who reside in one of the most vulnerable sections of the city in terms of poverty and violence, and who have very limited access to health care.
The Center will be able to provide free and comprehensive physical and mental health services to 1,200 students annually in grades 7 through 12.
Staffed and supported by nurse practitioners from the University of Rochester School of Nursing and physicians from the University of Rochester Medical Center, the Center provides physical and mental health assessments; diagnosis, treatment, and management of acute illnesses and injuries; management of chronic conditions such as asthma and diabetes; health screenings and education; and population-based primary prevention. Dental and vision services are planned in the future. There is an on-site medication dispensary for over-the counter and prescription medications. All students have access to health care regardless of their ability to pay or health insurance status, and incur no out-of-pocket expenses.
The project is the culmination of several years of collaborative planning and was made possible by a $375,876 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) and $523,039 in funding from the City School District.
“School-based health centers fill a void in our community by helping to improve the physical and mental health of thousands of students who would otherwise not receive any care at all, or might only receive after-hours or emergency care,” said Bolgen Vargas, Ed.D., Rochester Superintendent of Schools. “The centers can play an essential role in improving school performance and attendance—helping students stay healthy, focused, and ready to learn. There are countless numbers of students whose lives have been positively impacted by the care centers like this have provided.”
This is the second health center to be operated by the UR School of Nursing in collaboration with the City School District. The first was established at East High School in 1995.
At the East High Center, asthma attacks are a common condition treated. Within minutes of an attack, medication and steroids can be administered on-site, instead of in an emergency room, improving health outcomes for students and substantially reducing health care costs. Mental health issues are also prevalent. Many students struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder due to exposure to violence. For these students, assessments and on-going counseling are readily available, all with a strict emphasis on student privacy, and flexed to meet each student’s unique needs and schedule.
“Over the years we’ve seen kids who have endured just about any kind of human suffering you can imagine,” said Kim Urbach, N.P., who directs the East High and Douglass Centers for the UR School of Nursing, and is past chair of the NYS Coalition for School-Based Health Centers. “Repeated studies have shown that school-based health centers not only improve the physical and mental health of children, but save tax dollars by providing maintenance and preventive care that helps reduce hospitalizations and emergency room visits. The centers also help reduce lost work days and income for parents struggling to earn a low single wage.”
Urbach said many students who utilize the centers lack relationships with primary health care providers and very few have ever received mental health services.
“Our goal is to build trusting relationships with as many students as we can, so that we can provide the health care they desperately need and deserve, and ultimately strengthen the health of our community.”
The Frederick Douglass School-Based Health Center will provide: mental health counseling; complete physical exams; treatment of sports injuries; treatment of acute illnesses (ie. asthma attacks, colds, sore throats, flu, skin infections); management of chronic conditions (ie. asthma, high blood pressure, diabetes); health counseling (ie. relationships, abuse, substance abuse, school performance); referrals for subspecialty care (ie. cardiology, urology, nephrology; immunizations; tests and screenings for STDs; HIV and pregnancy; on-site lab testing (ie. strep throat, urinalysis); on-site medication dispensary; consultation with school staff about behavioral concerns or physical/sexual abuse.