Fairfield schools debut innovative health center

Posted at 5:00 AM, Nov 17, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-17 05:00:09-05

FAIRFIELD, Ohio -- Recent research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has shown that healthy students are better learners.

Fairfield City Schools has taken this research to heart: By the end of the year, Fairfield will become the first suburban school district in the nation to offer a full-service health center for its students and faculty.

“Ultimately, students are not going to be able to learn if they’re not healthy,” said Jeff Madden, director of Student Services for Fairfield City Schools. “Academics is our business, but if we don’t have healthy students, we’re not able to reach them academically.”

Work on the health center project began more than a year ago, when faculty and district leaders met to discuss the future of Fairfield Schools. One major topic the administration discussed was the shifting demographics of Fairfield students: Over the past 10 years, the number of students receiving free and reduced lunches had risen to 42 percent. Food assistance wasn’t the only place these students were in need; district leaders received alarming news that many students were also being underserved in health care.

“One of the things we see, that our nurses will bring up, is that our students are not getting the adequate care that they need in terms of health care,” Madden said. “We do the eye screenings and other screenings, where oftentimes there’s no follow-through as an end result of that.”

At about the same time as the administration meetings, Primary Health Solutions, an organization specializing in providing affordable primary health care, approached Fairfield with the hopes of starting a joint venture to open a full-service student health center.

“We saw this as an ability to keep our kids in school, keep them healthy, and ultimately raise academic achievement because of that,” Madden said. District leaders, he said, enthusiastically welcomed the plan.

Over the course of the past year, as work on the health clinic began, the plan expanded from an offering of one or two services to a full suite of care options: primary, dental, vision, and mental health.

Now, the project is in its final stages. Along with the help of Primary Health Solutions, Fairfield has been able to create the health center with the assistance of outside donations. One donation for $300,000 is time-sensitive and mandates that the clinic open by Dec. 31. Madden said development is on schedule and that students will take home consent forms within the next two weeks to let them and their parents know about the services the center will offer.

Madden says the response to the health clinic, which he said is a first for a suburban school district, has so far been very enthusiastic from teachers and parents. The center will be open to students and staff. According to Madden, Primary Health Solutions will work with parents to find a way for their children to get medical help in a way that fits the parents’ budgets.

Madden pointed to another major advantage of the health center: easy accessibility. Instead of possibly having to wait a few days to see a primary care physician, students and staff can go visit the clinic to receive care within the school day. This means students and teachers can return to school and possibly nip further illness and absences in the bud.

The health center is set to open by the Dec. 31 deadline at at 211 Donald Drive. Madden said a grand opening ceremony will be held sometime in January. In the meantime, the excitement for the center is starting to spread among the district.

“Those who have heard about it are very excited,” Madden said. “Our nurses are excited. They have they seen a lot of kids that they know will benefit from it. They think this is going to take off and be successful. In terms of parents, every parent that I’ve talked to is excited as well. I see this as an opportunity to work with parents, the community, and with kids on a wellness piece that will really benefit them academically.”