Keeping students in class

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The district has taken a significant step to improve the health of its students and families.

Community health clinics will be built at six schools -- all in regions of the city where residents have the least access to health care -- following a vote by the Fresno Unified Board of Education on Feb. 8.

Health centers will be built at:

- Addams Elementary School

- Bakman Elementary School

- Sequoia Middle School

- Tehipite Middle School

- Duncan Polytechnical High School

- Sunnyside high School

The clinics will be modeled after Gaston Middle School's Health and Wellness Center in southwest Fresno, which opened with the school in 2014.

The Gaston health center not only serves Gaston students but those ages 0-19 years old in the surrounding community. The center has become a significant asset to southwest Fresno, with the number of patient visits rising from 3,373 in 2014-15 to 4,235 in 2015-16, with an expected 5,500 patient visits through June of this year.

The clinic is open 40 hours a week, Monday through Friday and is operated by the non-profit Clinica Sierra Vista. The center is augmented with a registered nurse and licensed vocational nurse provided by the district who work out of the school nurse's office.

Based on the success of the Gaston center, Fresno Unified identified several high-needs areas for similar clinics. Health centers at Addams, Bakman and Tehipite are targeted to open in the 2017-18 school year, with the others to follow.

The board has selected Clinica Sierra Vista to operate the health centers. Clinica is partnering with Valley Children's Healthcare to provide health center facilities and equipment. Other partners in the planning process have included Kaiser Permanent Fresno with a $99,371 grant through the California School Based Health Alliance, the Fresno County Department of Health, St. Agnes Medical Center and Community Medical Centers.

The centers will provide primary care and treatment, physicals, case management, immunizations, vision care, mental/behavioral care, lab services, referrals for dental care, drug and alcohol counseling, health education and transportation to the main clinic.

"By adding health clinics to six more schools and neighborhoods, we continue our efforts to do all that we can to make sure our students are in school, learning, and to be a beacon for the communities surrounding our schools," said interim superintendent Bob Nelson.

Studies have shown that school-based health centers improve school attendance rates and student test scores. Fresno Unified's Gaston Health and Wellness Center is among 243 school-based health centers in California and 2,000 across the nation.