Press release from United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County:
Starting mid-April, 2022, Asheville Middle School will be the first of two schools within Buncombe County to implement what is known as a School-Based Health Center. Located directly on a school’s campus, the School-Based Health Centers (SBHC) are fully functioning health clinics that will provide a variety of behavioral, mental, and physical health care services. A registered nurse will treat acute illnesses, such as flu, as well as chronic conditions, including asthma and diabetes. Screenings will also be available for dental, vision, and hearing problems. With an emphasis on prevention, early intervention, and risk reduction, school-based health centers counsel students on healthy habits and how to prevent injury, violence, and other issues.
The services will be available at first for students, and eventually for families, faculty, and staff. The second clinic will be launched at Erwin Middle School. Renovation plans are currently in review with a goal of starting services at Erwin Middle during the 2022-2023 school year.
Families: Benefits, Consent, and Costs
Across the country, and in our own neighboring counties, School-Based Health Centers have proven to be a wise investment in both the health and education of youth and families. Benefits include:
-easy-to-access health care on the school campus, which addresses challenges related to transportation and parental work schedules
-early detection and treatment of illness can reduce the need for expensive treatment down the road and can keep children out of emergency rooms, saving families stress and money
-onsite treatment can keep students in schools; decreasing absenteeism which is a crucial component to staying on track for graduation
-School-Based Health Centers have been shown to strengthen the connection between schools and families.
The School-Based Health Centers will be open whenever the school is open, and no student will ever be denied services based on their ability to pay. They will accept private and public health insurance and sliding scale fees will also be available for those that qualify. It is important to note that student health care and screenings can only happen with parental/guardian consent.
About the Partnership
This project was born out of a partnership between Asheville City Schools, Buncombe County Schools, Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC), Buncombe County Health and Human Services, and United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County.
After a thorough search process, Blue Ridge Health (BRH) was chosen to serve as the primary medical provider. BRH has over 57 years of experience serving the health care needs of Western North Carolina and currently provides SBHC services for 33 public schools in seven North Carolina counties. This year, the number will rise to 36 as new services are implemented at Asheville Middle and Erwin Middle, as well as at the Blue Ridge School and Early College in Cashiers, NC.
Funding for this initiative comes from a federal grant from the US Department of Education, the Dogwood Health Trust, and local donations.
A Bold Goal
Many of the organizations and institutions that have joined forces to bring School-Based Health Centers to Buncombe County are working together under the banner of United for Youth. This growing network is a multi-generational, cross-sector, cradle-to-career partnership built on the principle that “Equity and Educational Excellence are Inseparable.”
United for Youth is dedicated to achieving a bold goal: “By 2035, ALL Asheville City and Buncombe County students graduate from high school ready and fully prepared to pursue their goals and dreams.”
Making School-Based Health Centers a reality is one important step toward ensuring that families and neighbors have the support and tools they need for healthy and successful lives.