It would have been impossible for us to carry out a plan on this large a scale by ourselves. To take steps toward achieving our goal of focusing on student and family wellness, we partnered with other organizations within the community to create a shared vision of what we could do for our students and families.
First, we found out who our partners were and where they could fit in to help us carry out our plan. We found we needed hospital partners, medical professionals, and key leaders in the city. We connected with Primary Health Solutions as a key player in carrying out our vision. With Primary Health Solutions, the district began reaching out to other critical partners, such as dental providers. Primary Health Solutions and the district led the way and started the conversation about how services would be provided in the school-based health center. Partnering with Primary Health Solutions and other partners was critical to making our wellness center a reality.
Discussion with our community partners and collective visioning took more than a year, and only after that process was complete did we move forward with designing and building the facility. All that planning was worth it. As we’re a high-poverty, economically disadvantaged urban district, we knew it was our responsibility to give kids access to health care.
With our school-based health center, we’re doing more than providing access to health care and helping students and their families break out of the cycle. Our students are learning how to take care of themselves, go to the dentist, and eat healthy. We’re teaching them life lessons they’ll carry with them into the future.
We wanted to build our wellness center so that all students could access it. Making the site as accessible to the community as we wanted it to be required a significant amount of funding, both from the district and our partners. Primary Health Solutions and the district were both responsible for a portion of the build. Primary Health Solutions was able to tap some of their partners to get donations, and the Board of Education was able to earmark funds for this building. The district itself dedicated $400,000 to the building. The total ticket price was approximately $825,000, which included dental chairs, medical exam rooms, and other necessary equipment.
The best space for the wellness center was on our high school campus, but we wanted all kids to be able to access the building during the school day. That meant elementary school students also needed a way to get to the center. In addition to funding for the space itself, the Board of Education approved a one-time, $35,000 purchase and staffing of a van, which travels to and from the elementary school.
Leading up to the online launch of our registration form, we started our efforts to get as many students and families registered as possible. We wanted to get the application in the hands of our families anywhere possible so we could provide medical care to students when the wellness center opened.
We found creative ways to get parents to fill out our application. For example, leading up to the grand opening, we did a registration competition with an iPad as a prize. We made registration paperwork available at all district events and coached our principals to talk about the wellness center. Representatives from Primary Health Solutions were at Middle XL, Latino Night, and many other district-wide events. Immediately following the grand opening of the wellness center, we set up registration stations at every district and building event. We’re now three months into the program being online, and we have over 500 students already registered.
We’ve also marketed the fact that our school-based health center serves students outside of the school day and will be open year-round to serve the whole family. In addition, we’ve also removed some of the cost and insurance barriers associated with health care. Our wellness center provides services regardless of a student or family member’s insurance carrier or lack of insurance. We have staff on hand in the center to help with insurance enrollment if students are uninsured.
Parental permission to access our wellness center’s services means that their child can receive care from the center as long as they’re enrolled as a Middletown City School District student. Our primary goal is to remove barriers to access to health care so our students can stay in school and come to class ready to learn.
Everyone wants evidence that their projects are working and that results show improvement. Right now, we’re trying to figure out what it means for our wellness center to operate at capacity.
This is the first time that our district is medically servicing students, providing medical care, overseeing personnel, and administering all the other tasks and operations associated with running a wellness center. On top of that, we’re trying to build student and family registration and create and maintain an inventory of clients. In short, we’re trying to figure out what we’re capable of.
While we want to wait to scale our key services and offerings, we also want to be attentive to our district’s needs. In our environment, we know our kids have behavioral needs, and we’re committed to exploring the future needs of kids. However, we want to make sure we’re doing the necessary R&D before truly investing in providing those resources. We want to do our due diligence so we can figure out the best way to address the needs of our district. We know this means that, at some point, we’ll have to invest in increasing the capacity of our wellness center. Right now, we’re trying to find the best way to determine our baseline.