Jackson Public Schools and Northwest Community Schools are two of the stars in the Center for Family Health’s galaxy of community partners.
Jackson is host to three school health centers at Northeast, Parkside and Jackson High; Northwest has a center at R.W. Kidder Middle School.
Cari Bushinski, Northwest director of curriculum, says the health center fits right into the district’s emphasis on coordinated school health.
“The partnership between the Center for Family Health and the district is something we are really proud of and work hard to maintain,” she said.
“I’d like to see the word spread about the center, increasing awareness, accessibility of what is being offered right here on our campus.”
The health center works with the district on issues beyond immediate health care. Center staff members serve on the district’s sex-education advisory committee and will be working with Northwest to increase awareness and education about mental health among students and school staff.
Barbara Baird-Pauli, principal for instruction at Jackson High, says having health care readily available for students’ acute and chronic illnesses, and well care is a huge plus.
“When kids have an issue, it is hard (for them) to be focused on learning,” she said. Health center staff members “really have a respect for the importance of kids being in class and they minimize the time out of class.”
In addition, medical staff members are partners in other ways.
They provide help in emergencies when students have asthmatic, diabetic or potential heart-related concerns, Baird-Pauli said.
“They are at those (emergency) sites in minutes,” she said.
The center’s therapist also helps deal with students’ “dietary issues, eating disorders, gender identity and other general social-work-related events that go in in the life of a high school students,” she said.
Baird-Pauli’s praise was echoed by Melissa Paschall, Northeast principal, who appreciates the school health centers as a staff member and a parent.
She said that when she learned kids can use the center even if they have a doctor, she signed her high school son up.
Northeast’s dental office presents a program on dental health for all the students every year, including giving each student a toothbrush and toothpaste.
For some children, she said, it’s their first toothbrush.
Paschall particularly likes having a therapist at the center. She cited a few students who had a need for intense counseling; they received it at the center with a minimal loss of instructional time.
“With three of them, there was a huge change in their behavior,” Paschall said.
Baird-Pauli summed up why the partnership with the Center is important:
“At one time, having a school health center might have been seen as a luxury, but I would definitely put it in the vein as a necessity.”