How School Health Clinics Help Care for Students and Families

A Hispanic teenage girl sits on an examination table while her sister leans gently on her arm.

UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Auckland takes an innovative approach to physical and mental health in historically disadvantaged communities

Written by Lorna Fernandez

In the center of the quad at McLymons High School in West Oakland is a door framed by a red ‘McRymons Warriors’ flag. The sign says ‘Chapel Hayes Health Center’ and the door opens to a warm and spacious waiting area with sofas. On the wall is a large portrait of local political activist Chappell Hayes, for whom the clinic is named. At the end of the corridor is a well-equipped examination room.

This is not your typical “school infirmary”. The clinic is one of two of his clinics at Auckland high schools and is staffed by doctors, nurses, social workers and therapists from UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Auckland (BCH Auckland). McRymonds Clinic and Youth Uprising Castlemont Clinic, located across the town of East Auckland and next to Castlemont High School, offer comprehensive services to historically underserved students and neighbors in the surrounding area. It is part of an innovative effort to provide comprehensive primary mental health care.

“Students can book appointments or schedule same-day services for a variety of services, from wellness and sports checkups to immunizations, reproductive health care such as condoms and contraception, health education sessions, and behavioral health therapy. They come and go depending on their needs,” said Dr. Celeste Allen, an attendee. “These young people have after-school jobs, siblings and other obligations that often make it difficult for them to take care of their health needs on their own time. Yes, but with proper reservations.” It’s definitely possible as it’s just a short walk between classes. “

These young people often have after-school jobs, siblings and other obligations that make health care difficult.

Dr. Celeste Allen

UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Auckland

Celeste Allen smiling while leaning against a wall

The clinic is open weekdays from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm for in-person or telemedicine mental health appointments. Seven BCH Auckland physicians work in rotation at the clinic, seeing patients two days a week at McLymons and four days a week at Castlemont for wellness and primary care, as well as clinical responsibility at BCH Auckland. Plays. The clinic is open to students and local residents during the summer when schools are closed.

According to Diego Garcia, a junior at Castlemont University, the convenience of receiving mental health care and other care on campus is a big advantage. “If I had to get in the car and go to therapy, I would never go,” said the 17-year-old 4.0 student. “I don’t want to miss class, so I have appointments after school.” The school-based clinic said BCH the late Barbara his staggers, a primary care physician at Oakland’s Federally Qualified Medical Center (FQHC). It’s a doctor’s idea. McLymons’ Center opened in 2003 thanks to the collaboration of BCH Oakland, Students, Families and the Oakland Unified School District. Castlemont Center he opened in 2005. The clinic serves students, community children and youth, and services are reimbursed by his MediCal and other patient insurance.

A female doctor examines a 6-year-old Hispanic girl as her brother and sister watch and smile behind her.
Kelly Hernandez Garcia, 6, undergoes a checkup with Dr. Celeste Allen as her sister and brother watch. Photo credit: Dean Fitzmaurice

“We are now a cornerstone of our community, with families coming from as far away as Hayward and San Leandro. It’s closer to them than it is to primary care centers,” Allen said. “As we experience the age range from birth to 24 years old, receiving consistent care as a young adult is very helpful for families. Our teenage and young adult patients are , bring their babies to the clinic for check-ups and immunizations, see siblings and other family members, and the convenience of primary care at these locations makes a big difference in their busy lives. ”

Castlemont High School co-principal Michael Scott said he saw positive changes in students who used the clinic’s mental health services. “Students who have behavioral problems or are showing signs of trauma or depression benefit from having a local support person to help them resolve their issues,” says Professor Scott. said. “We have seen students grow in their ability to resolve conflicts peacefully, make better decisions and be open to teachers and staff about their need for support.”

cultural correspondence therapy

The majority of on-site support is provided by Saun-Toy Trotter, a psychotherapist and clinical director of BCH Auckland’s school-based behavioral health program, and a team of 14 mental health and health education counselors. will be

Studies show that tired, sick, stressed and depressed students are at higher risk of dropping out of school and engaging in unhealthy and violent behaviors. Students come to these clinics for mental health therapy for a variety of reasons, from finals stress to gun violence and sexual trauma. The two clinics served him more than 5,600 patient visits in the 2021-22 fiscal year. About 60% were related to mental health.

“We are here for them,” Trotter said. “Young people who have experienced isolation during the pandemic are desperate to be in a safe space, and the culturally sensitive group therapy we offer connects them with skilled therapists and with each other. It provides an emotionally safe space for

Garcia of Castlemont first booked his therapy appointment out of curiosity, but was impressed with how it gave him the tools to ease his anxiety, deal with tension, and calm down. “I learned the breathing techniques that I use all the time,” he said. “He likes knowing what to do when he feels insecure.”

After nearly 20 years of providing behavioral health services at two clinics, Trotter says he is happy with the changes he has made for young patients and their entire families. “When young people start to get better, parents often refer them to siblings or even ask them to help themselves understand their trauma,” Trotter said. “So there’s a generational shift going on in our work, and it’s not just affecting that young person, but the whole family. It’s incredible to see the ripple effect across the community.”

A new generation of health leaders

For some students at McLymons and Castlemont, access to medical care is just one benefit of the clinic. Another is her calmness and confidence as a health leader on the clinic’s Youth Wellness Advisory Board (YWAB).

YWAB is a campus-based student group that currently has 19 students on two campuses. Students act as fellow health educators and promote the health and well-being of their communities. Health education staff at BCH Auckland, Skye Timmons and Sarah Coleman, guide and empower YWAB members to build confidence and hone her leadership skills, while navigating his path through a variety of careers in the medical field. Introducing.

I used to never talk to people I didn’t know or trust. But now I’m mentoring her new YWAB members and in charge of the recruiting table.

Diego Garcia

McLymons YWAB member Raven Robinson brought his passion for event planning to Chamomile and Chill. The event is a de-stressing event held in the final week, complete with therapy dogs, locally sourced produce, and calming gardening his table. “I’ve always loved healthcare, so I thought YWAB would be a good way to get involved in the clinic,” said Robinson, who is graduating this month. In the fall she will be admitted to UCLA, where she plans to major in medical elementary biology with the goal of becoming a doctor or surgeon.

Garcia, who describes himself as an introvert by nature, attended YWAB as a sophomore and said it helped build his confidence. “Using YWAB has improved our communication and allowed us to be more open,” says Garcia. “Before, I never spoke to anyone I didn’t know or trust. But now I mentor her new YWAB members and run the recruiting table.”

School leaders say the benefits of these full-service clinics are tangible and intangible, providing students and neighbors with world-class physical and mental health care. Students also enjoy opportunities for leadership, career development, networking, and valuable life lessons.

Castlemont co-principal Joseph Brasher believes the clinic is invaluable to the school and the community. “Having a school-based health center on campus is essential to the health and well-being of our community,” he said. “I have seen how the clinic impacts the lives of students and how it impacts the lives of children. We have become trustworthy.”

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