The doctor is in -- and so is the dentist at these soon-to-be school-based health care clinics

Doctor, therapist, dentist — all appointments that will be part of the school day soon for some students in southeast Michigan.

Three school buildings in three separate districts will house new student health centers this spring.

The projects are the result of Michigan Department of Health and Human Services grants to the Family Medical Center of Michigan and the organization's collaboration with the three schools. The Family Medical Center of Michigan will build, staff and run the centers (the space remains the property and under the control of the schools).

What’s happening: MDHHS awarded three Child and Adolescent Health Center Program Planning grants of $180,000 each to the Family Medical Center of Michigan. School-based health centers will open in May at three schools in southeast Michigan. They are: Wagar Middle and Junior High School, serving the Airport School District in Carleton; Springbrook Middle School, serving Adrian Public Schools; and the Southern Michigan Center for Science and Industry in Hudson.

The centers will provide comprehensive medical health care to all students regardless of their ability to pay. The student health centers initially will offer primary medical care services and behavioral health services; dental services will be added in the future. Medical services available will include well-child checks, treatment for acute illnesses, chronic disease management, immunizations, vaccinations, and sports physicals. Consent for treatment will be required from parents before services or treatment are provided but parents can choose to participate in person, virtually, via telephone, or not at all. The centers will be staffed by a medical provider as well as a master’s level licensed therapist.

School-based and school-linked health center services have been provided in Michigan through the CAHC program since the 1980s. State funding for such services began in 1987 through the Michigan Department of Public Health (now the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services). The CAHC program is jointly managed by MDHHS and the Michigan Department of Education.

Convenient care: “The health centers are designed to make accessing health care easy and convenient for students and families,” says Ed Larkins, CEO of Family Medical Center of Michigan. “Using the centers, students will miss very little time from school and busy, working parents won’t have to take time off from work to transport their children to routine medical appointments.”

“By being situated on school grounds, these centers eliminate barriers to healthcare that students may face due to transportation limitations or family resources,” Larkins adds. “Students can receive timely and convenient medical care without disrupting their academic schedule, leading to better health outcomes and reduced absenteeism.”

Shaped by community input: The convenience of on-site services and virtual parent attendance isn’t all that sets these centers apart from traditional clinics. Craig Freestone, principal at Wagar Middle School and Junior High, says students and community members have had a voice in the creation of the clinics from the beginning.  Students have input in the creation of a space that helps assure the services be student centered as opposed to having a clinical, doctor's office type vibe. 

“It's going to be something that the kids are going to be comfortable with when they come in,” Freestone says.

The services will be available to all students in the district, including high school and elementary students, he says. “I think it's a great opportunity for us to support our kids,” Freestone says. The benefit from an educational standpoint, he adds,  is that without having them located in our building students might miss half a day of school instructional time for an appointment.

Construction of the health care clinic is under way at Wagar Middle School.Creating the space: Construction is underway. Krieghoff Lenawee Company, a construction firm in Adrian, is handling the construction project for all three sites. Construction entails renovating an area of the school – varying in size between 1,600 and 2,500 se feet – to include an exterior entrance, two medical offices, two behavioral health offices, a lab, reception and waiting area, and a restroom.

In Adrian, construction is on schedule and students from across the district will be able to use the health care services, beginning initially with those on the campus that includes the high school, middle school and one elementary school, says Nate Parker, superintendent of schools.

“The plan is to find a way to make that happen,” Parker says. “There'll be an implementation phase in the startup with the kids in the building and branching out from there” to eventually include the district’s three outlying elementaries.

"I think it's a huge plus for our students and our families and the entire community just to be able to increase the access to health care and to the services that kids need,” he adds.

About Family Medical Center of Michigan: Family Medical Center of Michigan, Inc. (FMC) is an independent, non-profit community health center, led by an independent and consumer-majority board of directors. Currently, FMC works with 33 schools in the Monroe and Lenawee counties areas to offer a team of trained and certified psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, counselors, and social workers to help diagnose and manage students’ behavioral health concerns. The new centers will allow FMC to provide primary medical and dental services as well. 

About the grant: The focus of the Child and Adolescent Health Center Program Planning Grant – 2023 is to provide a safe and caring place for children and adolescents to learn positive health behaviors, prevent diseases, and receive needed medical care and support, resulting in healthy youth who are ready and able to learn and become educated, productive adults. Clinical CAHC and SWP program models assist eligible children and adolescents with enrollment in Medicaid and provide access to Medicaid preventive services.

Rosemary Parker has worked as a writer and editor for more than 40 years. She is a regular contributor to Rural Innovation Exchange, UPword and other Issue Media Group publications.
Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.