Glenwood Springs High opens school-based health center
Fifth Roaring Fork school to offer on-campus care to students
Principal Paul Freeman remembers walking the halls of Glenwood Springs High School several years ago and happening on a student that was “obviously not well.”
The high-schooler was clutching his stomach and, in Freeman’s eyes, in obvious need of medical attention. When he asked the student why he hadn’t seen a doctor, he received a blank stare in response.
“He looked at me like that whole thing was impossible for people like him,” Freeman said. “The notion that he could get medical help was totally alien to him.”
Freeman said accessibility and affordability was a concern for that student and others. To combat this, Glenwood Springs High School became the fifth Roaring Fork District school to open a school-based health center, an on-campus clinic staffed by Mountain Family Health Centers. Students enrolled in any Roaring Fork school can access medical, behavioral and dental care and get assistance with signing up for insurance.
The Glenwood Springs location opened with the first day of school and held its grand opening celebration on Aug. 24.
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Glenwood Springs High School students now have immediate access to things like injury care, sports physicals, immunizations, sexual health education, testing and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases and basic dental services like cleaning and X-rays. They can see a behavioral specialist for general counseling and substance abuse prevention. It all happens within the same walls they have gym and biology class.
Schedules, travel and price of care are all barriers to entry for some students to get medical or mental care. In the words of Freeman, school-based health centers put care “right in their laps.”
“Proximity means a lot,” Freeman said. “But also the spirit of the way this place is run is going to be tremendously helpful in getting kids to understand that they can take care of themselves and that there are people who will take care of them.”
It also consolidates care into one place and one staff. As opposed to sending students to a dentist, clinician and therapist at three different locations, that care happens in the same place, which Mountain Health says makes it more “integrated.”
CEO Ross Brooks said every patient — medical, dental or behavioral — is asked questions about their emotional well-being. If there are concerns about depression or other mental-health issues, they can refer the patient to the behavioral specialist and potentially bring them into the room in that discussion.
Mountain Family behavioral specialist Kate Andraschko, who provides services at the Glenwood Springs High School center, said it also helps students break the stigma of getting mental health care.
“A lot of times, students might not feel comfortable talking to a behavioral health provider,” Andraschko said.
Mountain Family also provides families with cost assistance. A team of specialists can assist with application for insurance and help determine eligibility for programs like Medicaid or other financial assistance programs.
The company also offers a membership program that allows access to care for a set monthly fee, starting at $69 for medical coverage only and $129 for medical, dental and behavioral.
The funding for the centers comes from sponsors around the Roaring Fork Valley, including the city of Glenwood Springs, Garfield County and The Colorado Health Foundation.
Roaring Fork Schools also has school-based health centers at Roaring Fork High and Basalt’s elementary, middle and high schools. Mountain Family Health Centers also operates a center out of Avon Elementary School in Eagle County.
The Glenwood High center is open Monday to Friday for behavioral health, Tuesdays and Thursdays for medical and Thursday for dental.
More information on the school-based health centers, including enrollment and appointment scheduling, is available on Mountain Family Health Centers’ website, MountainFamily.org.
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