School health center proposed

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BY ANDREAS YILMA

REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

NAUGATUCK — Borough school officials are looking for a grant to establish a school-based health center

ANDREAS YILMA CITIZEN’S NEWS
Stay Well Health Center chief development officer Christine Bianchi explains a new health center for public schools at the Naugatuck Board of Education meeting on April 6.

The Board of Education unanimously voted to have Stay Well Health Center submit a grant application for the establishment and operation of a school-based health center in Naugatuck public schools.

Stay Well Health Center provides medical, dental, behavioral health and social services at 10 Waterbury sites, as well at a site at 30 Church St. in Naugatuck. In addition, the organization serves patients from 37 towns in Greater Waterbury and 30 additional towns across the state.

The state Health Resources and Services Administration will award 70 two-year federal grants up to $350,000, according to Superintendent Christopher Montini.

The grant application deadline is May 1 and the awards will be announced in May, said Christine Bianchi, chief development officer of Stay Well Health Center.

Montini said the school district already has a strong partnership with Stay Well, which includes the mobile dentistry that goes around to the various schools.

“Stay Well will submit our letter of intent to apply and will begin to co-design the program and plan for implementation. There are a number of healthy impacts for school-based health centers,” Montini said. “Better access to health services, students are able to learn better obviously, none of us learn if we don’t have as well as we do when we’re feeling, when we’re feeling balanced, when we’re taken care of.”

Montini said the new proposed school health center would supplement the existing health services and be an opt-in permission based service for registered Naugatuck students. Students wouldn’t be brought to the health center except for an extreme medical emergency. Students under 18 would need a parent or caretaker to sign off. Naugatuck High School is the first choice for the new health center

“So we don’t replace any of the existing school personnel and we typically would sign an agreement with the (Board of Education) or the superintendent’s office, confirming that,” Bianchi said. “We’re really here to be on sight and augment what is going on.”

Stay Well would incur most of the operational costs for the health center where they would utilize the grant for the start-up costs. Funds also will be generated by billing insurance for services provided tostudents. The school district wouldn’t sustain any additional costs. Students wouldn’t be turned away due to a lack of insurance, Montini said.

Montini said the primary purpose of the grant is to expand access in three areas to health care services, including general primary medical care, mental health services and dental and oral health.

“We talk a lot about providing access and opportunity,” Montini said. “We often are talking about it through the teaching and learning lens but really this is what I think is an amazing opportunity to provide access and opportunity to the three buckets of healthcare.”

The school district and Stay Well would collaborate to co-design the program and location. If HRSA awards the grant, Stay Well would open the health center within 120 days of the grant award, Montini said.

Bianchi said Stay Well would work in tandem with the nurse’s office and won’t replace a nurse. If student is ill, the child would still go to the nurse first and it would be within the nurse’s purview to determine the next action. Stay Well isn’t planning to send a bus to pick up a student at another school and transport them to the proposed health center.

The health center would typically operate on the days the school is open and not after hours, Bianchi said.

“We don’t replace a medical home,” Bianchi said. “We’re not replacing someone’s pediatrician, whether they come to Stay Well, or they go elsewhere – but it is an option.”

Bianchi said Stay Well will not be dispensing any medication from the school based health center as well as not handing out condoms, however the organization’s licensed providers are qualified under state law to prescribe birth control. Stay Well can’t have any involvement with pregnancy termination, Bianchi added.

“What’s so important particularly in a high school is that anticipatory guidance,” Bianchi said. “A prescription for birth control is indicative of choices that are being made and that’s really where our providers are going to spend time and focus on.”

Bianchi said the goal is for a student to be able to talk to their parent, their giver, to have someone that they trust, that can receive that guidance from as well as getting it from the provider.

Naugatuck Board of Education Chairman Jeffrey Litke said he’s familiar with school based health centers in other communities and knows of their success as well as believes they provide access to services that are not always easy for some individuals to obtain.

“It will support and work with and collaborate with our nursing department, with our schools, with our teachers and provide access to medical care, dental care, to our students that may not otherwise have access,” Montini said.