The School Based Health Center, once feared destined to close, is now likely revived to live at least another year.
The center, based at Ashe County Middle School, gets a new lease on life because of a new source of funding. It is primarily funded through the Appalachian District Health Department and not the county school system and provides basic health care for the school’s student population. The center was facing a shortfall in funding following last year’s cut of the “Making the Grade” grant. That grant provided two-thirds of the center’s funding. The total operating cost for the center and its staff at the time was approximately $147,000, ADHD officials previously stated.
Danny Staley, director for the regional health department, approached the Ashe County Board of Education during its March meeting to inform board members of the coming cuts. He said during that meeting that officials were able to find additional funding the center for the last school year, but they were running out of time to do the same for the upcoming school year. Searching for additional funding comes at a time when state law makers are aiming for a lower budget.
Health department officials recently announced that they have worked to secure a grant for $70,000 through Health Net to keep the center functional for at least another year. One of the stipulations that comes with receiving the funding is that the health center will now have to take on a more interactive approach in the community by serving the underinsured and uninsured adults. It will also operate under a slightly different schedule than it had previously. In the past, the health center has tended to the physical and emotional scrapes and bruises of students at the middle school.
Superintendent Dr. Travis Reeves emphasized the benefits of having an on-campus health center for students. He said the facility is important considering the number of students countywide who have at some point received care from the health center.
“The center has seen students for anything from scrapes and bruises to sore throats and inner ear infections,” Reeves said. “For more serious concerns, the center’s staff can contact the parents and give them needed advice. They can even go to the point of contacting a physician to set up an appointment for student.” He continued by saying, “It provides a tremendous health benefit. We deal with a lot of mental health issues such as emotional issues of kids who may be going through tough time. It really does help the students.”
The center, which has operated at the middle school for the past 11 years, also provides sports physicals for the school’s participating athletes. All of these services are provided to the students free of charge, Reeves said. Ashe County School officials, Reeves said, along with Jennifer Greene of ADHD are continuing to work together with the health center’s advisory group in finding other grants and sources of funding to keep the facility operational in the future.