School-based Health Center opens at Coleman Elementary

Scheduling doctor’s appointments can be difficult. Between travel and the appointment itself, a simple well-child check can mean missing half a day of work for the parent and school for the child.

A new School-based Health Center at Coleman Elementary School will help alleviate that stress for parents, and increase access to care for children ages 5-21 throughout the school district. The health center is run by MidMichigan Community Health Services and opened in January.
Diane Nielsen, Director of Grants and School-Based Services for MidMichigan Community Health Services
“There are very limited primary care services in Coleman itself. This is a convenient and needed service,” says Diane Nielsen, Director of Grants and School-Based Services for MidMichigan Community Health Services. “These school-based programs provide both primary care and mental health counseling services right in the school.”

Providing access to care without requiring parents to leave work can make a huge difference for families, and that’s one reason MyMichigan Health, a partner to MidMichigan Community Health Services, feels these School-based Health Centers are important. 

“There can be a lot of logistical barriers that parents run into which can make it difficult for students to get medical care,” says Ann Dull, MyMichigan Health Director of Strategic Partnerships and Integration. “These health clinics make it easier for students to get the care that they need so that they can thrive in their academic work as well as outside of school.”

At the health center, students will have access to a variety of services including but not limited to sports physicals, immunizations, mental health services, and first aid treatment. 
The School-based Health Center at Coleman Elementary School opened in January. This shows the construction phase of the project.
“Our health centers are set up so that there's a mid-level provider - either a Nurse Practitioner or Physician Assistant, a Master's level health care provider offering mental health services – either a counselor or social worker, and we also have a medical assistant,” says Nielsen.

There are no income qualifications to receive services at the health center. Nielsen says that on an annual basis parents and guardians will be sent a consent form to sign that allows students to be able to receive services at the health center.

“We bill the insurance company for the services that are received, but we have a medical care discount policy that allows us not to bill for the balance of the copay,” she explains.

She explained that one good use of the clinic may be for a child who complains of a sore throat in class. If the child has a consent form on file, they can go down to the health clinic to be seen.
At the health center, students will have access to a variety of services including but not limited to sports physicals, immunizations, mental health services, and first aid treatment.
“The provider can call the parent and say, ‘We did a Rapid Strep Test and your child has strep throat. Which pharmacy do you prefer to use?’ They call the script into the pharmacy and then the parents can pick up the child, go to the pharmacy, and they can go home. So, there is a convenience for parents of not having to leave work to take them to the doctor,” she says.

While the health center will be useful for students who fall ill during the school day, it will also provide an easily accessible medical office for parents to take children for regular visits. Parents can schedule appointments for things such as sports physicals and immunizations, and for unplanned illnesses there are walk-in appointments available. Their hours will accommodate a variety of schedules as Nielsen says they plan to be open Tuesday-Friday, 24 hours per week. 
Jennifer McCormack is the superintendent of the Coleman Community Schools.
Jennifer McCormack, Superintendent of Coleman Community Schools, already knows firsthand how beneficial school-based health centers can be for the students and community. She says that at the school she was formerly principal of there was a health center, and she’s been hoping for the opportunity to add one here as well. 

“At my previous school, it decreased our attendance truancy issues, increased the health of the kids, and built a lot of connections within the community,” says McCormack.

She adds that if a student was struggling in school, having the health center on-site enabled the school to ensure that everything was fine medically.

“Sometimes, it’s not always a case of a student who has special needs or is at-risk. Maybe they just can’t see the board or hear what’s going on,” she says.

Funding to open the health center within Coleman Elementary School came from a grant that MidMichigan Community Health Services received from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. This is the fourth school-based health center that MidMichigan Community Health Services has opened in rural communities throughout Michigan. The others are in Harrison Community Schools, Houghton Lake Community Schools, and Roscommon Public Schools. 

“We are thrilled that MidMichigan Community Health Services provides these clinics because of how important we feel they are, and we feel that they are the right ones to be in the schools providing that care,” says Dull. “We come around beside them to support them with some of the specialty services that we provide and we’re there when any of the patients need additional testing, rehabilitation services, X rays, or laboratory services.”

Dull says MidMichigan Community Health Services and MyMichigan Health have consistently received positive feedback from the School-based Health Centers.

As this new health center opens its doors and begins seeing children across the district for everything from immunizations to ear infections, sports physicals to child well-checks, mental health counseling to first aid, and everything in between, Nielsen says there is one simple overarching goal.

“The ultimate goal is to provide services to children and adolescents that might not otherwise be getting this care.”

Recent grants provided by Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to MyMichigan Health Foundation will give way to new Child and Adolescent Health Centers in Alma and St. Louis Public Schools set to open later this year. A Health Center with Shepherd Public School District has also been supported by the same grant awarded to Community Mental Health for Central Michigan.

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Read more articles by Gabrielle Haiderer.

Gabrielle "Gabe" Haiderer is passionate about sharing stories that show the positive interactions between individuals and businesses that occur every day in our communities - interactions that inspire hope and motivate community growth. She has used this passion to share stories through a variety of media outlets - from television to radio to traditional newspaper to digital news. When she's not writing for Epicenter Mt. Pleasant, Gabe stays busy running her own videography and social media management business in Northern Michigan, caring for her two furkids (Watson the siamese cat and Holmes the Corgi), spending time with her husband, and tending her garden.