BUNCOMBE COUNTY, NC – October 16, 2023 – Buncombe County Schools opened its first school-based wellness center on October 16th at the Erwin Middle School. The clinic is run by Blue Ridge Health (BRH), a Federal Qualified Health Center (FQHC). This program offers healthcare services to students, immediate families, and staff. Each student must be registered by a parent or guardian in order to access the health services. The health center is open during regular school hours. The cost for services can be billed to the patient’s health insurance or it is billed on a sliding scale based upon the family’s size and annual income. School-based health services include primary care, urgent care, dental care, behavioral health, and nutrition. The funding for the program comes from the federal government, Dogwood Health Trust, and local donations.
Low resource and disadvantaged communities frequently have poor access to medical care and a higher level of chronic and untreated disease. A FQHC’s mission is to serve the needs of the needy as a safety-net provider of health care for the community. Its clinics provide a place for individuals to receive primary health care and wellness services without regard to insurance status.
There are many other school-based health care centers in Western North Carolina. Blue Ridge Health has 34 school-based clinics in 7 counties offering health care to more than 3,000 children. BRH has school-based wellness clinics at the following Asheville schools: Asheville Middle School, IC Imagine K-12 Public Charter School, and the Franklin School of Innovation. The Appalachian Mountain Community Health Centers (another local FQHC) and the United Way partner to run a clinic at the Asheville High School.
It took a year to create the Erwin Middle School wellness center. Other partners include MAHEC Family Health Centers, Buncombe County Health & Human Services, and United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County. The wellness center is staffed by one full-time counselor and nurse, a part-time advanced practitioner, and a mobile dental unit. The health center will have a food pantry and clothing closet to support the needs of the community. Telehealth is also offered through the center.
The benefits of a school-based health center are:
- Better access to health care
- Less student absenteeism
- Less stress over transportation to medical appointments
- Money savings
- Connectivity building between schools and families
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Contact: Dr. Dick Needleman, Health reporter, 103.3 AshevilleFM, email@example.com