Launching Whittier Street Health Center’s School-Based Health Center Partnerships
Millions of children and adolescents, especially those of color and those who live in underserved areas, go to school with physical and mental health concerns that threaten their wellbeing and educational performance. Research indicates, youth living in impoverished communities experience higher rates of obesity, asthma, substance use and mental health issues and are at elevated risk of not having regular health maintenance visits.
With a mission to serve as a center of excellence that provides high quality, and accessible health care and social services that achieve health equity, social justice, and the economic well-being of our diverse patient populations, Whittier Street Health Center is launching School-Based Health Centers at partner schools in Roxbury and Dorchester. Designed with the goal of eliminating health and social disparities, Whittier’s School-Based Health Services provides students their necessary medical care, dental and mental health care without leaving school and missing valuable class time.
Jesse Solomon, the Executive Director of Boston Plan for Excellence commented on the new clinics by stating, “We are so excited about the potential of our partnership with Whittier St. to create school-based health clinics at the Dudley Street and Dearborn schools. If it wasn’t clear before, the last 18 months have put into stark relief the disparities in access to quality health care. Health care is one of those basic needs that if we aren’t able to provide it to every student, it too often gets in the way of students’ readiness to learn. Through this partnership, we are working to create the conditions by which every student in our schools has access to quality health care on demand from culturally-competent practitioners, and ultimately to ensure that health care disparities do not impact any student’s ability to learn.” Solomon said.
So far, Whittier has piloted this program at the Dearborn STEM Academy and the Dudley Street Neighborhood Charter School and will be expanding the program to include the Epiphany School as well as the Boston Day and Evening Academy this fall. By providing services on-site at partner schools, barriers to accessing health care will be eliminated for families who experience transportation issues, are underemployed or lack childcare for their younger children. The team will provide health screenings including: healthy weight, diabetes, blood pressure, vision, depression and substance misuse for the early detection and prevention of chronic conditions.
Frederica M. Williams, President & CEO of Whittier Street Health Center stated that, “Beyond supporting the educational development of children and adolescents, schools play a critical role in addressing racial and social inequities. As a champion of health equity, we are thrilled to have the opportunity to partner with our schools and families to improve the health and well-being of our children and to address the social determinants of health. The families we serve rely on schools to provide child care; a safe, stimulating space for children to learn; opportunities for socialization; and access to school-based mental, physical, and nutritional health services, and these School-Based Health partnerships will help to mitigate the health effects of a maladaptive social ecosystem while simultaneously working to improve the ecosystem itself.”
Whittier Street Health Center’s School-Based Team provides trauma-informed and culturally competent healthcare directly to students. The services of our School-Based Health Centers address health and social issues that frequently interfere with students’ academic success. Whittier’s School-Based Health Center services include routine and preventative care including Pediatric well visits and health education, behavioral health and oral health services. Whittier’s School-Based Team assist with MassHealth enrollment and linkage to all Whittier medical and social services. Whittier’s School-Based Team and its partners work together to assure enrolled students have access to the information and services they need to remain healthy.