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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wilson Area Student Health Center holds grand opening

Wilson, NC – April 4, 2017—What began as a dream on a community plan to improve the lives of young people in Wilson, today becomes a reality as the first Wilson Area Student Health Center (WASH) celebrates its grand opening.

This school-based health center was made possible through a $220,000 grant from the Healthcare Foundation of Wilson. Wilson County Schools provided the space and covered renovation costs while medical oversight for the center is provided by the Wilson County Health Department. The Wilson County Department of Social Services, another partner on the grant, provides support through a prevention social worker.

Forest Hills Middle School is home to WASH. With more than 550 students, Forest Hills is the largest middle school in the county. A goal for the center is to help bridge the gap between students’ education and their health.

“Only a healthy child is able to take full advantage of their educational opportunities,” said Dr. Lane Mills, Wilson County Schools Superintendent. “Research indicates that both school attendance and graduation rates increase in schools with school-based health centers.”

The center, which will be open during the school year, is staffed by a nurse practitioner, a registered nurse and an office manager. Staff provide diagnosis, treatment and resolution of health problems, treating everything from influenza to offering immunizations to providing athletic physicals for students. Referrals are made to other physicians and other community health providers as needed.

“A school-based health center is able to reduce barriers to learning, encouraging students to talk with staff about their health care needs,” said Teresa Ellen, Wilson Health Department Director. “There are great disparities in Wilson County with regard to health and poverty. We believe WASH has potential to make a real impact on health outcomes for students in our county.”

Forest Hills’ students held a contest to name the new health center. Art students recently painted the WASH logo outside the clinic.

“Our students, staff and parents are excited to be hosting the first student-based health center,” said Forest Hills Principal Cheryl Baggett. “As an educator, I am interested in supporting our students with every tool we can provide. WASH offers tremendous opportunities to support our students’ health and academic achievement.”

A prevention social worker from the Wilson County Department of Social Services will also have regular hours on campus as part of WASH, working with staff, student and parents on improving communication, parenting skills, conflict resolution and other tools to help prevent child abuse or neglect.

“We are happy to be involved with this outstanding project,” said WCDSS Director Glenn Osborne. “This grant offers our agency another opportunity to partner with great organizations to help improve the lives of children and families in Wilson County.”

In 2014, Wilson County Schools and Wilson 20/20 Community Vision developed a strategic Youth Master Plan (YMP) with a series of recommendations to improve the lives of youth in Wilson. School-based health centers were one strategy identified under the Health and Wellness area of the plan.

“The YMP Health and Wellness Team proposed the concept of school-based health centers as a unique way to address health challenges and provide services where students spend the majority of their day,” said Paula Benson, Wilson 20/20 Executive Director. “Today’s grand opening represents the imaginative thinking and hard work of many dedicated community partners.”

Initial funding for the school-based health center was provided through Healthcare Foundation of Wilson, which was established in 2014 and is committed to investing in strategic initiatives to improve the health and wellness of all people in the greater Wilson community.

“The school-based health center is a great example of a collaborative effort that addresses some of the greatest health concerns in Wilson and our foundation’s priority areas of funding,” said Denise O’Hara, executive director of Healthcare Foundation of Wilson. “This on-site resource at the school has the potential to reduce learning barriers and encourage students to communicate health needs and concerns that otherwise could impact school attendance and success.”

Since opening its doors in early February, staff at WASH have treated 32 Forest Hills students, including some for multiple visits. Nearly half the students currently have signed parental permission forms in place and can be seen in the center.

For more information on the student-based health center, contact the Wilson County Health Department at 252-237-3141.


Lori Walston, Communication Manager
Wilson County Department of Social Services

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