Clinics Set Out to Lower Illness Related Absenteeism at Schools

A terrible toothache.  Bad asthma.  Out-of-control diabetes.  These and other health issues that go untreated can keep students out of school, in some cases, for days at a time.   Of course, parents and guardians want to help their child, but lack of health insurance, an inability to pay, time off from work or transportation hurdles can prolong the illness. This delay in care often results in more lost days of school.

To address these obstacles to learning, Wellness Centers are being built on 13 school campuses, making a range of treatments available for an increasing number of students and families in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) who will no longer have to do without. These Wellness Centers will offer preventive physical, mental and oral health, which 27 percent of LAUSD’s uninsured students’ lack. They will also provide more than 65,000 healthcare visits annually to students and through school-linked programs and partnerships. 

“Students and parents are often burdened with the academic impact health issues like asthma, diabetes, a toothache, or obesity,” said Maryjane Puffer, Executive Director of the Trust of the LAUSD.  “When these issues are left untreated, not only do they affect the student’s health but it keeps the child away from learning, sometimes for days. This year, the Wellness Centers will help target those concerns and reach a larger number of students and their families.”

New Wellness Centers are scheduled to open on campuses throughout the District this summer and fall.

The Los Angeles Trust for Children’s Health (L.A. Trust), an independent  nonprofit organization originally created by the LAUSD, has worked in consort with LAUSD Facilities, Student Health and Human Services and community clinic partners to develop new facilities for use by the school communities in and around Belmont HS, Carson HS, Crenshaw HS, Fremont HS, Garfield HS, Gage MS, Hollywood HS, Jefferson HS, Jordan HS, Locke Early Education Center, Manual Arts HS, Monroe HS, and Washington Preparatory HS.. With joint-use facilities bond funds totaling $29 million approved by the LAUSD Board of Education in 2008, these model health centers will serve students, families and communities. The Wellness Centers, in collaboration with parent centers, student engagement, partnerships and schools, seek to lower absenteeism related to illness by December 2015.

LAUSD has a long history of supporting school-based health centers (SBHCs), including the operation of over a dozen SBHCs by Student Health and Human Services personnel (doctors, nurses and mental health professionals).  Over the past 20 years, there have been greater partnerships with outside operators, such as hospitals, community clinics, and LA County Department of Health. 

Support from non-profits like the L.A. Trust has helped all operators provide services, including medical equipment, start-up funding, and technical assistance. The L.A. Trust led three dynamic Learning Symposia, bringing school and clinic leadership together to formalize mutual goals and operations for the Wellness Center this year and will continue convening partners through the next phase of implementation.  LAUSD, the L.A. Trust and partners see the new Wellness Centers as the “next generation” of SBHCs—they will provide a more robust support system for the community at large. The Wellness Center clinic partners are: Asian Pacific Health Care Ventures, Inc., St. John’s Well Child and Family Center, South Central Family Health Center, Northeast Community Clinics, Watts Health Care Corporation, Bienvenidos, UMMA Clinic, Saban Clinic, T.H.E. Clinic and Valley Community Clinic.

The vision for the Wellness Centers is to serve all students, their families and the community where they have easy access: the neighborhood school. By bringing services to the campus they provide convenient, culturally competent, and community-focused care that works to keep students in school. Each Wellness Center will leverage partnerships with other partners, such as parent centers, promotora programs, student leadership councils, small learning communities, afterschool programs, and social services to change the health of the community. Exercise and nutrition programs, sexual health education for students and parents, and career pathway programs are all core components of the larger Wellness Networks. 

“We must all work together toward wellness, not only treatment of disease, but prevention and education” said Puffer. “We want to let the community know that schools are not only where you take your kids to learn but also a place where they can get the services and support that they need; and the same for their parents.  With nearly 650,000 students enrolled in LAUSD schools, this is about the future of Los Angeles.”

 

By: Mayra Ramirez

Posted: April 19, 2012