Beginning January 14, 2019, in collaboration with the Polk County Schools (PCS), Blue Ridge Health (BRH) will open a new school based health center (SBHC) at Polk County Middle School. The Polk County Middle School Health Center will be the sixth SBHC operated by BRH in Western North Carolina (WNC), the site will be open starting in January 2019 with behavioral health services provided during school hours, five days per week, to all Polk County Schools students. Medical services will be available to all Polk students and staff beginning in March 2019.
SBHCs are clinics that bring preventive and acute care, as well as counseling, health education and other services to children and adolescents at schools. Each community determines which services are provided based on students’ needs. All BRH SBHCs are satellite practices of the organization and are fully licensed outpatient health facilities. They are staffed by BRH pediatric and adolescent health specialists, including nurse practitioners, physician assistants, registered nurses, licensed clinical social workers (counselors), and a consulting medical director.
The SBHC functions like a medical practice in the school and, as such, there is a charge for any services provided by the medical provider and/or behavioral health counselors. All insurances are accepted at the SBHC. Those without insurance or with high deductible plans can qualify for a sliding fee scale based on income and household size. No one is turned away for an inability to pay.
Studies show that the presence of a school based health center is associated with improved educational status, including higher student performance and achievement.
SBHC staff works closely with school nurses and key school support staff to identify and treat student health issues. “The school based health center model represents our district’s commitment to the health and well-being of our students and staff,” said PCS Superintendent Aaron Greene, “We want to encourage access to regular and ongoing preventive care whenever possible, and school based health centers represent an effective solution for chronic absenteeism and the ongoing shortage of healthcare options for families in need.”
The new site in Polk County is another example of increased collaboration between BRH Health and public school districts in WNC, in order to support the healthcare needs of the student population. BRH currently operates five school based health centers in Henderson County with plans to open more across the region in the coming years.
“We opened our first school based health center in Henderson County in 1993 and we’ve seen consistent, positive outcomes,” said Tammy Greenwell, Chief Operations Officer for Blue Ridge Health and President of the North Carolina School Based Health Alliance, “We’re certain that the addition of more robust healthcare services on site in the Polk County School District will yield positive results for the well-being and academic success of students in the district.”
SBHCs primarily operate in communities designated as Medically Underserved Areas and Health Professional Shortage Areas and play a critical role in providing students with primary care, including behavioral health. Across the country, more than 2,000 SBHCs – one-third of which are located in rural communities – serve over two million students.
This collaborative approach in Polk County is intended to take care of the student’s health and well-being while supporting attendance and academic success. It improves access to care for students so that students and parents do not need to miss school or work to receive care. Students and staff can come to the practice by appointment or walk-in for routine healthcare, minor injuries, or to be treated when they are ill.
The BRH – Polk County Middle School site will be open from 8:00am – 3:30pm, five days per week. Those wanting to schedule an appointment or seeking more information about the Wolverine Health Center are encouraged to call 828-233-3712. Like all Blue Ridge Health practices in WNC, appointments are encouraged but walk-ins are welcome.