Mar 15, 2022 - News

Ohio invests $26 million in school health centers

The entrance sign to a Nationwide Children's Hospital school-based health center

The entrance to Reynoldsburg's school-based health center. Photos courtesy of Nationwide Children's Hospital

When children are struggling to learn how to read, the solution is sometimes their first pair of eyeglasses rather than an academic intervention.

  • But with students learning online and routine wellness care on the backburner for many families, the pandemic has left some students slipping through the cracks.

Driving the news: Ohio will allocate nearly $26 million to establishing and enhancing school-based health centers statewide using American Rescue Plan Act funds, a first-of-its-kind investment for the state.

  • Nationwide Children's Hospital plans to open a vision center in a Reynoldsburg high school using some of the money — just one example of how area health care providers are bringing services closer to kids.

Why it matters: Unaddressed health issues negatively impact a child's ability to focus and succeed in school.

What they're saying: "Being back in person makes recognizing those needs a lot easier," Reynoldsburg assistant superintendent David Baker tells Axios. "To have this center available to families will help close some of those achievement gaps down the road."

How it works: Typically in converted classrooms, health care workers conveniently offer students anything a primary care doctor does, from screenings to vaccination. Some also offer dental and vision care.

  • Schools can coordinate travel between buildings, helping families overcome transportation barriers and busy schedules.

By the numbers: Central Ohio providers will receive about $7.75 million from the state — $4.35 million to PrimaryOne Health, $3.25 million to Nationwide Children's and $150,000 to Whitehall's Heart of Ohio Family Health Center.

Zoom in: Reynoldburg's vision center will be an expansion to an existing primary care center, one of 14 Nationwide Children's operates.

  • The hospital will also launch a new center for Columbus City Schools to provide primary care and serve students with complex medical needs at Fort Hayes Career Center, senior director of school health services Mary Kay Irwin tells Axios.
  • PrimaryOne, meanwhile, will establish its first two centers: one in Columbus' Global Academy, which serves immigrants and refugees, and one in a Groveport Madison school district bus depot, which CEO Charleta B. Tavares says will be renovated as part of a larger-scale community wellness center project.

What's next: The new facilities are expected to open this time next year, officials say. A timeline for Reynoldsburg's expansion is still being determined.

A classroom converted into an exam room
An exam room in a converted classroom at Reynoldsburg High School's Livingston campus.

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