There is a strong connection between health and academic success, and some districts in Ohio are bringing wellness services into schools to meet kids where they are.

School-Based Health Centers help eliminate some barriers families face in accessing health care services such as transportation or lack of a medical home.

Jolene Joseph, CEO of the HealthCare Connection, which helped establish Mount Healthy’s new school-based health center, explained they help students with health-related issues such as treating colds, managing asthma, and dental problems. They also conduct mental and behavioral health screenings.

“We are looking at treating the whole individual from top to bottom and looking at social determinants of health,” Joseph pointed out. “Where are the struggles for youth? We oftentimes look at those from the perspective of the parent but not really looking at it from a child’s point of view.”

The Mount Healthy clinic was opened through a partnership with the district and Interact for Health. Gov. Mike DeWine recently awarded nearly $26 million to create 29 new School-Based Health Centers and expand services in 107 existing centers.

Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed 44% of teens feel “persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness,” up from 26% in 2009.

Joseph argued given the isolation youth experienced during the pandemic, the connection to mental health care through school-based-health centers is critical.

“This affords them the opportunity to really own their health and understand the importance of mental health,” Joseph asserted. “And reducing that stigma associated with seeking out support that you need.”

She added parental involvement is very important, along with an advisory community within the district to provide open communication and information for families.

“Parent engagement is equally important outside of the school-based health center or inside of the School-Based Health Center,” Joseph emphasized. “So that they’re in the know of their children’s health or challenges that their child might be experiencing.”

Interact for Health offers a learning group for stakeholders interested in setting up School-Based Health Centers. The Ohio Department of Education also developed a School-Based Health Care support toolkit.

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