Baptist Health and Wolfson Children’s Hospital are bringing health care to school children in some of Jacksonville’s poorest neighborhoods.
The hospitals opened two school-based health centers in Jacksonville’s northwest side and early next month will open a third pediatric clinic for children who live throughout Jacksonville, especially in its poorest ZIP codes.
The school health centers are located at Ribault Middle and at Ribault High schools. The pediatric clinic is inside the Ribault Family Resource Center at 3701 Winton Drive, and beginning Feb. 9 will serve children throughout Duval County, including those living in the 32208 and 32209 ZIP codes.
The need is great, Baptist Health officials said. The clinics are part of a major push to bring primary medical care to children in areas of Jacksonville, where few private physicians have offices or accept Medicaid patients.
Federal data from the Sulzbacher Center indicates only 4 percent of the adult and child population in the 32208 and 32209 ZIP codes has seen a primary-care doctor. Even though many children have a doctor’s name on their health cards, many have never seen that doctor, Baptist Health officials said.
Children and families need primary-care doctors to monitor their health. They need better alternatives than a hospital emergency room for non-emergency care, said Hugh Greene, president of Baptist Health, which is funding the centers.
“We looked at the children who came to Wolfson’s emergency room and had no primary care,” he said. “We’re not talking about the school nurse down the hall. We’re trying to create a clinic where parents can bring their child.”
Regular school nurses provide limited care, said Christie Johnson, the nurse practitioner who runs the clinics at Ribault middle and high schools.
Many schools have health technicians, who can provide help for symptoms a student is experiencing, she said. “They provide a lot of tender loving care if a student scrapes a knee. Now (with the school clinics) we can do much more. We’re going to be able to give extensive health services, providing medical care directly, in the schools.”
The clinics will function like doctor’s offices, providing such services as vaccinations, physical exams, and flu treatments. They also will help students manage chronic conditions such as asthma and diabetes.
They’ll also help children and families learn to live and eat healthy, said Dr. Mikah Owen, who will run the resource center clinic. He said he is looking forward to participating in school parent night events and assemblies where clinic staff can talk with groups of students about health.
“It’s an opportunity to really engage the community in a way that a traditional physician’s practice doesn’t,” he said. “We’re really excited to learn what the issues are for kids. What makes it less likely for kids to reach their optimal health and well being. And what are their strengths? We want to build on the strengths of young people and their families.”
The clinics will join forces with existing mental health and social workers already working for Full Service Schools, which is located in the family resource center.
In addition, the Sulzbacher Center, which operates two federally funded health centers, is partnering to help operate the school-based centers and the Agape Center, at 120 King Street, also is a partner, providing primary medical care for adults, Owen said.
It’s hoped that parents will find it convenient to walk or drive their children to the new clinics, something many weren’t able to do.
“The biggest issue our populations have when accessing health care is access to transportation,” said Kara Russell, director of health operations at the Sulzbacher Center.
“When we say that every child has health care, that is an obligation for us to go out and embrace these children who perhaps don’t have the ability to navigate the system to access medical care,” said Nancy Broner, board committee chairwoman at Baptist Health.
Parents must give permission for students to use the centers for primary medical services. Then students can begin developing trusting relationships with medical professionals at the new clinics, said Paula Wright, Duval school board chairwoman.
Green said the centers will operate on medical reimbursements from such plans as Medicaid and KidCare and will be supplemented with funds from Baptist Health. There also are generous private donors involved, he said.
“This is not a pilot. Pilots start and stop,” Green said. “Our intent is that this is a beginning…. Let’s do it and try to get it right before we duplicate it in some of the schools in the community.”
Denise Smith Amos:904-359-4083`