Renton High School students now can see a medical professional without leaving campus grounds.
Last week the district hosted the grand opening of a health clinic, which is operated by HealthPoint in partnership with the school district, Renton Area Youth Services and Family Services (RAYS) and King County Sexual Assault Resource Center (KCSARC).
The walk-in clinic includes primary and preventative medical care, counseling space, nutritional counseling, immunizations and blood work services, as well as behavioral health services including mental-health support, counseling and referrals to other services.
“This clinic will bring real benefits to the community,” said Lisa Yohalem, HealthPoint’s strategy and development officer, in a press release. “At Renton High School more than 65 percent of the students are eligible for free or reduced lunch, and students face multiple barriers to getting the health care they need. Economically distressed students and their families encounter challenges including transportation and inconvenient times for parents to take off work for their child’s appointment. This clinic right on campus will eliminate those difficulties.”
The clinic at RHS opened at the beginning of the school year but operated out of a temporary space as construction of the 1,400-square-foot clinic continued. Construction was completed in February and HealthPoint, along with its partners, hosted a grand opening April 4.
Since opening at the beginning of the school year, the clinic has seen nearly 1,000 students walk through its doors.
Since the opening of the newly-constructed clinic, more students have been utilizing the services. According to Alexa Sanchez, clinic coordinator at RHS, the temporary clinic space saw around 600 students from August 2017 to January 2018. The new facility has an average of 200 students coming in each month.
The clinic is made possible with funding from King County Public Health Department’s Best Starts for Kids initiative. The initiative provides funding to community organizations, non profits, schools and school districts, tribes and tribal organizations, and public or governmental agencies serving communities in King County to promote health and wellbeing for kids and families.
The initiative funded RHS and two other schools in Bellevue and Vashon Island.
The Best Starts for Kids levy provided $6.7 million for the initial capital investments and operations for all three clinics through 2021.
The need for school-based clinics is evident, according to county statistics. Adolescents are 21 times more likely to meet with a mental-health provider at their school than they are in the community. School-based health centers also reportedly cut the absentee rate in half among students who had three or more absences.
According to Sanchez, the mental health services have been the most utilized service at the clinic.
Two counselors from RAYS are present at the clinic throughout the week. According to RAYS Development Director Kris Raftis, counseling needs can go hand-in-hand with primary medical needs.
“When you have a clinic with both primary care and behavioral health, you can take better care of patients,” said Raftis. “When students come and they have a medical issue and (the medical professionals) realize the student could benefit from seeing at therapist, they can be referral right there. The therapist and doctor can confer how to best serve the students.
“There are a lot of barriers for people seeking counseling and therapy. Having it right at the school… where we can get people into treatment faster removes those barriers”
KCSARC placed a on-site specialist who delivers prevention programming designed to increase pro-social behaviors and promote healthy decision-making.
“KCSARC will be training Renton High School educators and staff about sexual abuse, and how to most effectively respond when students disclose abuse,” said DeAnn Yamamoto, deputy executive director of KCSARC. “Whether students are disclosing a recent assault or prior abuse, having a supportive first response and an awareness of resources available plays a significant role in healing from the trauma caused by sexual violence.”
Additionally, a HealthPoint nutritionist will be on site half a day every other week.
According to the agreement between HealthPoint and the school district, HealthPoint will provide the necessary medical and behavioral health services, while the district will provide building space for the program, along with utilities and custodial services. According to the district, the agreement will be in place for 10 years.