PARKERSBURG - Officials gathered Tuesday to unveil Parkersburg South High School's new school-based health center.
People toured the facility, which sits next to the school's wrestling gymnasium, attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony and some even received free flu shots as part of the center's official community opening.
Bill Snider, CEO of the Ritchie Regional Health Center, said South's health center provide students and school staff with primary care services on site, so students miss fewer days of school, employees miss fewer days of work and parents or guardians do not have to leave work to take sick children home.
Photo by Michael Erb
Parkersburg South High School’s new school-based health center will help serve the health needs of students and staff as well as community members. Officials unveiled the new center Tuesday during a ribbon-cutting and open house.
Though the center has been open to staff and students for about a month now, Snider said he hopes it will become a community resource.
"What better way to bring the services right to the community than to have it located here at the school," he said. The center has a full-time registered nurse and a rotating doctor, as well as other support staff. Patients are billed on a sliding scale based upon their insurance and ability to pay.
Snider said the center has averaged about seven patients a day, but has had days where it has served as many as 18 patients.
"We expect those numbers to increase," as word gets around and as the area heads into flu season, he said.
Kelli Caseman, executive director of the West Virginia School-Based Health Assembly, said the center is the 70th school-based health center in the state and the second in Wood County. A center has been operating in north Parkersburg for several years at Jefferson Elementary Center.
"It's very exciting," she said. "For children who don't have a primary health care provider, who might not have insurance, this is a great way for them to get preventive health care services."
In addition, Caseman said the center will collaborate with school and area health care officials, offering education and health awareness services to students and the community.
"I'm hoping it will help health to have more of a presence in the school," she said.
So far the response has been positive. Caseman said most centers average about 30 percent of a school population returning parental permission forms for treatment.
At South, "by the fifth day it was open, they had more than half of the students here returning the parental consent forms," she said.
Principal Tom Eschbacher said one of the main advantages to the center is the ability to treat students and staff on campus. In the past, students who felt ill or had an issue might have to leave campus for the day even if they were capable of staying because they had to go to an emergency room or a walk-in medical clinic to see a doctor.
Now, he said, minor issues can be taken care of at the school-based health center.
"We're just happy to have them here," Eschbacher said.
Funding for the center was through a $500,000 federal grant, and Caseman said state legislators were instrumental in bringing the funds to Parkersburg South. Officials are now working to fund a similar center in Doddridge County, she said.
For more information on school-based health centers in West Virginia, visit the West Virginia School-Based Health Assembly's website at www.wvsbha.org.