School-Based Health Centers (SBHCs) are emerging in Washington State and across the country as an effective way to deliver consistent, high quality primary health care and mental health services to children and adolescents. SBHCs are particularly successful in delivering care to young people who may have trouble accessing care elsewhere. SBHCs work hand-in-hand with the school community to provide safe, age-appropriate, culturally competent health services when and where students need it.
Generally located within or close to school buildings, SBHC’s provide a wide range of direct services to students, in addition to consultation to school personnel and students’ families. Health services may include preventive well-child care, immunizations, urgent care, chronic care, mental and behavioral health counseling, family planning, drug and alcohol counseling, nutritional counseling, and oral healthcare. SBHC’s are staffed by a multidisciplinary team of health professionals.
The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction for Washington State reports that “the more health risks students have, the more likely they will not succeed in school. Each health risk that can be removed has the potential to positively influence academic behaviors” (Healthy Students/Successful Students, OSPI, 2009). SBHCs remove some of these key health risks.
SBHCs are an important bridge between health and education, delivering results that matter to schools, including decreases in absenteeism and improvements in grade point averages (Journal of Adolescent Health, 2009). A recent Seattle study indicates SBHCs reduce drop out rates for some of the most at-risk students.