School-Based Health Centers (SBHCs) are a vital community tool for supporting young people’s health and well-being. Located in schools or on school grounds, these clinics provide medical care, behavioral health services and, often, dental services to school-aged youth. Oregon has over 75 SBHCs across the state which makes them easily accessible for many families.
Besides easy access, SBHCs offer services to all students in a youth-centered environment regardless of ability to pay. The centers are comfortable and accessible to encourage youth to either make an appointment to come in or to drop by when they need medical attention and/or want to learn more about health issues.
“I love the health center,” said an SBHC client. “There is everything you need all in one place and for free. Everyone is welcoming and non-judgmental. I know a lot of my friends use and love the health center as well. I think that you guys do a fantastic job and just knowing it’s here is wonderful (even if you don’t NEED it).”
SBHCs have the following goals:
- Improve access to affordable quality primary care and mental health services for school-aged youth
- Provide patient-centered care for all students, regardless of insurance status
- Reduce costs related to unnecessary hospital stays and use of emergency rooms
- Improve educational outcomes because healthy kids learn better
- Save parents time by reducing missed work hours
Like so many health care providers, Oregon’s SBHCs had to alter the way they served students during the COVID-19 pandemic. Telehealth became a valuable option for appointments and group sessions, expanding the ability to provide services to students who may have transportation difficulties or anxiety about leaving the house. It also allowed some SBHCs to offer more hours and services outside of on-site appointments.
One girl’s group that started up during the pandemic still plans to meet via telehealth because the members live in two neighboring towns.
“We value the ability to provide culturally specific services to youth and families who have historically been marginalized in the community and had less access to mental health services,” said one SBHC mental health provider. “Research, and our experience, have shown that providing culturally specific services increases the likelihood that clients will engage and benefit from treatment services.”
Many SBHCs are a part of their larger community. Some SBHC Youth Advisory Council (YAC) members made hundreds of baked goods and collected donations like masks and gloves to drop off at an organization that feeds and mentors houseless youth. Another SBHC has been providing food box delivery to clients in partnership with their local food bank and some school districts.
SBHCs are staffed by a primary care professional who may be a doctor, nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant, and other medical or mental health professionals and support staff, such as a receptionist.
SBHCs can make sure that your child is prepared to start the school year healthy. They offer well-child visits and can ensure that children are caught up on the immunizations required for school. The health care staff is also ready and willing to answer your questions about vaccination. And if your child is 12 or older, an SBHC can also provide them with the COVID-19 vaccine.
Read more about SBHC services on the OHA web page.