Monday, October 29 was proclaimed “Hazelwood East School-Based Health Center Day” in St. Louis County at Hazelwood East High School. A few hours later, the same date was proclaimed Riverview Advanced Medical Service Day in St. Louis County at Riverview Gardens High School.
Both ribbon-cutting events celebrated the openings of new health clinics at temporary locations ahead of build-outs, thanks to a collaboration and partnerships. The school districts provided the space; Christian Hospital Foundation funded the clinics; CareSTL Health will staff the clinics for medical and behavioral health. Health Equity Works conducted the needs assessment and deployment support from Show-Me School Based Health to get the partnerships started.
At the events, Rick Stevens, president of Christian Hospital, greeted everyone with the traditional greeting question of the African Masai people: “How are the children?” He said the warriors of the Masai tribe in Kenya ask that question daily, because they knew that the wellbeing of the children is a good measure of community wellbeing. Stevens said the clinic ribbon cuttings are the realization of a community dream.
"School-based healthcare is a powerful tool for achieving health equity among children and adolescents, who unjustly experience disparities and outcomes simply because of their race, ethnicity, or family income," Stevens said. "Opening these school-based health centers is making good on our commitment to the community to get outside the hospital's four walls to address these disparities."
Having school-based health centers also reduces parents’ taking time off from work and absences for students.
Christian Bertel, coordinator of Health Services for the Hazelwood School District, said school-based health clinics address real needs.
“When our students come here, they don’t just drop all the trauma that they had the night before. Their teeth don’t suddenly feel better; their head’s not better; their vision doesn’t clear up. They bring that all with them,” Bertel said.
“And the reality is – a lot of our students don’t even make it into that door because of all those things. So this center truly is a possibility that, not only can they change what they knew about medical care or about however they feel about behavioral health care, but it opens up an opportunity – the possibility to get care right where they are.”
Chaketa Mack-Riddle, assistant superintendent of Student, School & Community Support Services at Riverview Gardens School District, agrees that school-based health clinics are needed.
“We don’t know what they come to school with every day,” she said. “And many times you have to ask them what’s going on, and before they even tell you they like to develop a relationship with you – they want to trust you.”
LaShonda Griffin, manager of Transformation Support for BJC Healthcare who played a major part in developing the project, said the clinic buildout at Riverview Gardens High School will serve about 1,200 scholars when completed.
“They also chose the name Riverview Advanced Medical Services, or RAMS,” Griffin said, naming the school mascot. “They also helped select the area of focus.”
Riverview Gardens High School student Jayden Keys spoke of the convenience of having an onsite clinic, when students need someone to talk to about how they are feeling – or when parents are too busy or lack funds for gasoline to take their children to a clinic.
“Our health is very important, be it physical health, mental health or emotional health,” Keys said. “Being actually able to make an appointment if you want to talk to somebody, being able to feel right throughout the day instead of being all bitter and the anger and holding in – usually we don’t like to talk about our feelings naturally.”
With the opening of clinics in Hazelwood and Riverview Gardens, CareSTL Health is staffing clinics in three school districts, with a clinic already in operation in the Jennings School District. They also plan to open a clinic early next year in another St. Louis County school district.
“What we wanted to do is increase the access points for children in our community to be able to have the preventative services,” said Regina Askew, director of Behavioral Health for CareSTL Health.
Askew said that includes the youth becoming knowledgeable about preventative care and being able to walk into the clinics and ask questions about anything.
“The curiosity that our children have – many times they don’t have those resources available to them to answer those questions,” Askew said. “We are here for that.”
The health center at Hazelwood East will serve about 1,300 middle and high school students with medical and behavioral health care.
"It's exciting to celebrate the commitment the leaders in this room have shown to this community, the students, and their families," said Melodie Donatelli, co-chair of the Show Me School-Based Health Alliance, which is listed as an “emerging affiliate” in the national alliance that advocates for school-based healthcare.
“It's a vision of our organization that every child and youth in the state of Missouri has the ability to succeed by having access to quality healthcare.”
At both events, attendees (including administrators, parents, patrons and elected leaders) were encouraged to support the work of the Christian Hospital Foundation. For more information, visit https://www.christianhospital.org/Giving/Foundation.
For more information on the national School-Based Health Alliance, visit www.sbh4all.org.