By Erica Wright
The Birmingham Times
School and healthcare professionals gathered last week at Hemphill Elementary School in West Birmingham to celebrate the opening of a new school-based health clinic. The Birmingham City Schools system partnered with Cahaba Medical Care to celebrate opening the clinic.
“We’ve been working on this clinic for almost a year, so we are excited about this opportunity to provide for our families and our students here in the West End community,” said Kristin Booker, principal at Hemphill.
The clinic consists of a team of nurse practitioners, licensed practical nurses, social workers and counselors. They will provide students and staff members with a variety of services including blood sugar checks, vaccinations, wellness visits and mental health services.
Cahaba Medical Care is a nonprofit community health center with locations in Jefferson County and in rural Bibb and Chilton counties.
“School-based health clinics around the country integrate teachers, school nurses, and primary care,” said John Waits, M.D., family physician and CEO of Cahaba Medical Care. “Health goes up, mental health goes up, graduation rates go up and absenteeism goes down.”
The clinic will serve all students regardless if they are insured, underinsured or have no insurance at all. There is a staff of five that includes practitioners, licensed practical nurses, a counselor and a social worker on site to serve approximately 389 children, said Booker.
Students, teachers and their families can get flu shots, wellness checks, physical exams and other medical care they would at a regular clinic.
“We use it daily, not only for our students but for our teachers as well,” she Booker said. “We’ve been serving our students and teachers as needed. They have no excuse here, we provide everything for the whole child so anything that the children need here, we have it and if we don’t, we know how to utilize our resources and get what they may need.”
The venture started as a way to reduce chronic absenteeism, Booker said.
“We wanted to make sure that children were in school and they had every opportunity to learn without being interrupted,” she said. “We noticed that a lot of our children were being checked out for going to doctor’s appointments . . . we said we’ll bring the doctor to you and that has helped us improve our attendance.”