COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Meeting the health needs of a community is the goal of healthcare provider PrimaryOne Health, and to touch more lives, it is opening two new health centers in what can be described as the heartbeat of any community – a school.
For so many communities, the school represents a center of growth, a safe space, and a community gathering spot. For those reasons, Columbus-based PrimaryOne Health is breaking ground at two public school sites for its latest community health centers.
“What we looked at is where we could meet children and where we could advance healthcare for an underserved population,” said Charleta B. Tavares, CEO of PrimaryOne Health.
Those reasons are why Tavares said creating two school-based health centers was a no-brainer.
“So, this is a natural,” she said. “You’re meeting children where they are. It’s ensuring, in a phrase that I’ve coined, that they are ready and for adults, they are ready to earn.”
Tavares said that by May of 2023, two central Ohio school districts will become home to the centers. Columbus City Schools’ North International Global Academy on the city’s north side will undergo a renovation process to create the center. The second health center will be built at a former bus depot near Groveport-Madison High School.
Both centers will provide comprehensive primary, pediatric, oral health, behavioral health and treatment for substance use disorders. Those services will be available to students as well as the community.
“Studies have shown that when you have a school-based health center while they are in school, you have less absenteeism, you have higher graduation rates, and parents don’t have to take off to take their child to the doctor or the dentist or the optometrist,” Tavares said.
Getting to this point has been a collaborative effort.
“Collaboration between the school district, the state of Ohio, we received funds from the Ohio Department of Education, Department of Health to provide for these school-based health centers,” Tavares said.
She said each center will have secure entrances and parents of school-age patients will sign off on treatment for their children.
As the United States works to navigate whatever new health challenges or outbreaks, Tavaras said these two medical centers will have the flexibility to pivot.
“If there’s a need for more services in one area, or maybe there’s some specialty services that we hadn’t planned on, we will work with the school district to develop those services,” she said.
Tavaras hopes this will be the start of a larger movement to create more all-encompassing, school-based health centers.