MAGNA — Starting this fall, a team of community partners will offer physical and mental health services at Brockbank Junior High for students and their families.
The goal of the integrated approach is to improve the health and well-being of students and members of their immediate families who are uninsured or underinsured, said Kelly Colopy, associate director of Salt Lake County's Community Services Department.
"Using this approach, we should really be able to serve kids better as well as make an impact on their academic performance," Colopy said.
National studies of schools with on-site health centers show students have fewer absences, are less often tardy for school and are more likely to stay in school.
A study published in 2010 showed that students who utilized mental health services from school-based health centers increased their grade-point averages over time.
During school hours, students will have access to the Granite School District nurse Cescilee Rall, who serves in the Cyprus High School network.
Rall is an integral partner in the program "because she knows the families so well that she'll really be able to connect them to the services they need," Colopy said.
Students who need tests or services she cannot provide will be referred to the nearby Magna Health Clinic. Starting in October, health care providers from the clinic will see students and their families at the school from 5 to 7 p.m. one night a week. Fees will be based on ability to pay.
"Our main focus is to provide assistance to those people who don't have access to health care right now," Colopy said.
The partners are currently surveying families to determine the best night of the week to run the clinic.
Meanwhile, a school-based clinic will provide at least 20 hours of mental health services each week.
Housing the services at the school will likely enhance their utilization. "We think a lot of families are more comfortable with a school environment than a medical environment," Colopy said.
Research also shows that school-based health centers in the Bronx helped cut health care costs because of reduced hospitalization rates and increased school attendance among children with asthma.
The program, to be funded by a two-year, $45,000 grant from the Utah Department of Human Services, also will help connect qualifying students or their families to programs such as Medicaid.
Arlene Bryce, a parent whose three children have attended Brockbank Junior High, said the clinic should be helpful to families who do not have insurance or lack transportation to access care.
"They're all working or trying to work. They're not making enough to pay premiums or they work at jobs that don't offer it. Buying insurance is low on their list for survival," Bryce said.
Tammy Champo, public relations coordinator for Salt Lake County Youth Services, said Granite School District was instrumental in helping the county obtain the grant for the program.
"This effort requires a community collaboration. This is not something Youth Services could do on its own. It's not something the school could do on its own," she said.
Private and public partners include the county, Granite School District, Exodus Healthcare, Utah Partners for Health, National Alliance on Mental Illness, Valley Mental Health and Primary Children's Medical Center.