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Bringing Quality Pediatric Care to Schools

Together, Baptist Health and Wolfson Children’s Hospital embarked on a big idea — to ensure every child in Northeast Florida has health care. We are proud to have partnered with Duval County Public Schools (DCPS), Full Service Schools, UF Health Jacksonville, the Sulzbacher Center, the Duval County Department of Health and Agape Community Health to adopt a proven model used successfully in other communities.

In 2018, a school-based health center and comprehensive pediatric medical home was established to provide health care to DCPS students and those under age 21 in the surrounding communities.

Ribault High School now offers an on-campus health center — the Wolfson Children’s Health Center — staffed by licensed health care professionals who are available on weekdays to assist students. The Ribault Family Resource Center is also home to a traditional primary care office to assist Ribault High, Ribault Middle and Sallye B. Mathis Elementary school students. It is open to all children under the age of 21 in our community.

Since opening, the center has had a total of 480 patient visits. School-based health center services are provided under the direction of a dedicated pediatrician and full-time nurse practitioner. Our clinicians can treat acute illnesses such as the flu, and chronic conditions such as asthma and diabetes.

The wins have been significant. One child has eyesight today because the Wolfson Children’s Health Center provided timely care. A teen with chronic high blood sugar who was falling behind in school was able to graduate on time. A teen mother got help ensuring her baby had a healthy start.

“The things that make kids healthy are not always effectively addressed in a formal clinical setting,” said Mikah Owen, MD, MPH, a pediatrician who is with the UF College of Medicine – Jacksonville and serves as the medical director of the school-based health center. “We connect with young people to learn about their needs and their friends’ health needs and the best way to reach out to their friends to make sure everyone has health care.”

All three schools already have mental health services in place. Providing additional medical and wellness services on-site and through partnerships helps to expand the types of care that are available to students. When health care is accessible in schools, students benefit because they don’t have to travel to find clinical care. Parents benefit because they don’t have to take time off work, and the schools benefit because students spend more time in the classroom.

There are more than 2,300 school-based health centers in the U.S. These centers are critical access points for children and adolescents to comprehensive care, including primary care, behavioral and oral health services, and prevention and early intervention. Typically, such centers are financed through a variety of sources, including reimbursement from public insurance programs and private health plans; local, state and federal grants; in-kind contributions; and philanthropic donations.

Funders of the Wolfson Children’s School-Based Health Centers include the Jessie Ball duPont Fund, Florida Blue, the Hall-Halliburton Foundation, the Dr. Gentle and Vivian Groover Children’s Health Endowment, and Baptist Health.