WELLNESS for WEST
Helping West students with everything from anxiety to concussions to colds, District 207’s School-Based Health Center (SBHC) is a primary care program located at Maine East that provides students with medical and mental health screenings and treatment.
Designed for Maine Township students to be accessible, affordable, and confidential, the SBHC aims to improve the health of students at all Maine Township high schools — notedly students who might not have access to primary care. It is open to all students that have a signed parental consent form.
“The SBHC center is an amazing resource that provides affordable, highly competent health care to students in our community,” Maine East’s principal Dr. Michael Pressler said. “The motto of the SBHC is ‘Helping Students Be Well to Do Well’ in school. The clinic provides a very high quality of health care for families that either do not know where to go or cannot afford other avenues. I cannot imagine our schools without the SBHC.”
The SBHC was originally organized in order to address the high number of students who, as per state law, were being prohibited from attending school due to the fact that they lacked required immunizations at the start of the school year. With the authority to provide certain students with vaccines, the SBHC significantly decreased the number of students that were missing school. “In the late 1990s and early 2000s, it was not uncommon for 200 to 300 students to be excluded for a few days at the start of the year because they lacked the proper immunizations,” Pressler said. “Three years ago at Maine East, it was the first year in anyone’s memory that no students were excluded at the start of the year for lack of required immunizations.”
Maine West students can utilize the SBHC in multiple ways, whether it be for physical health reasons or mental health help. The center is open not only to those who need a specialist’s help, but to those who want to learn about health, as well. “I think there are a lot of different ways that students can make use of the SBHC,” Dr. Nisha Hakhu, the medical director for the clinic, said. “One would be for any type of sick visits; so if you get a concussion, or you hurt yourself, or you have difficulty breathing; if you felt like you were going to vomit, or you’re coughing, you can come see us.”
Mental health is also prioritized at the center. Stress and emotional assessments are provided, as well as individual or family counseling. “We do have a mental health counselor, so some kids come here because they don’t need anything medically, but they want to come for counseling or ongoing therapy,” Hakhu added.
“I think there’s a lot of information out there that kids are sometimes nervous asking questions about to their own doctors or to their parents, and sometimes the internet can’t provide the best information regarding health,” Hakhu said. “I think [the SBHC is] a great option for kids that have questions about healthy eating, healthy behaviors, diet, exercise, and things they are hearing about in terms of drug use or sexual activity. We would be happy to sit down and talk to them and educate them.”
Additionally, should a student need a school or sports physical, the SBHC can easily provide one.
The center, located in the lower level of Maine East, is open Monday through Friday, from 8 am to 4 pm. The student or a parent needs to make an appointment, either by phone or in person, in order to be seen by professionals at the center. “Your parents need to sign a consent form so that they know you’re being seen here and are okay with it; I think a lot more kids come without their parents here, whereas at a regular doctor’s office, you need to sort of check in with your parents,” Hakhu said. “As for Maine West and Maine South kids, if you need to be seen [at a later hour], then we can figure that out; our mental health counselor definitely has later hours for you guys, as well.”
The health center provides most of its services for free to students regardless of insurance or ability to pay. Although, should a student bring in their insurance card, the center can then bill the insurance company, and the student will also be permitted to receive vaccines.
Senior Abby Perez visited the SBHC with her nursing class. “What’s great about the health center is that, not only can you get physical examinations, but they offer aid for mental health; they have therapists and psychologists. It’s great that the district offers this to kids; it’s either pretty affordable or free, and it’s a way for students to get the help they need,” Perez said.
While both focus on student health, the SBHC is unlike a school nurse’s office. School nurses are unable to prescribe medicine to a student, and while they have the authority to check vital signs, such as blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen levels, and taking a student’s temperature, school nurses are not in charge of performing full examinations.
“If you have on your plan from your doctor that you have asthma or you have seizures or you have some medical issue, school nurses might have your medicine in the nurse’s office. But, say you don’t have asthma, yet started feeling short of breath—you could come down here and we can give you a treatment, check you out, listen to you—things like that,” Hakhu said. “We often work together with school nurses to be able to help our kids. The nurse can tell us that a certain patient needs a meningitis shot, and we can give the meningitis shot.”
The SBHC is home to a number of programs geared towards connecting students and informing them when it comes to the topic of their own health. The health center’s Student Advisory Board (SAB) is the result of the staff wanting to better understand how adolescent health is perceived by teenagers themselves. In addition to advertising the health center’s services and fundraising, the SAB allows Maine Township students to contribute by offering their own insights on student health issues in order to enhance the SBHC’s services. The health center is also home to the school’s Not On Tobacco (N.O.T) group, a national program aimed at bringing an end to teen smoking by addressing its consequences. “Students will meet a friendly and caring staff when they visit the clinic,” Pressler said. “Health center services will enable students to further their education and maximize their adult potential. In addition to serving all District 207 students, the clinic frequently treats younger siblings of 207 students if the need exists.”
Hakhu said, “We don’t want to replace kids having their own doctor or having a relationship with their doctor, but we’re here to be that physician if that’s what they need, and we can certainly coordinate with their doctors or their specialists if they need that.”
Call the number below in order to schedule an appointment: 1-(847)-825-4059