Richmond opens health clinic in high school

After more than two decades of using a mobile health van, Richmond’s Kennedy High School has a permanent health clinic, which will be open soon to students and the community, county officials said Friday.

The clinic, a collaboration between Contra Costa Health Services and the West Contra Costa Unified School District, will offer students physicals and well-child exams, immunizations, reproductive healthcare, and dental exams, cleanings and fillings.

The facility, made possible by a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is one of 40 within the county, said Supervisor John Gioia, and will serve roughly 340 students each month.

Gioia said the Kennedy High School community clinic is part of a countywide initiative that has been going on for decades to get more school-based health services at school sites:

“What’s unique about this site is that it will also be available to serve youth in the community who do not go to the school.”

Gioia added the clinic’s services will be open to any of the community’s youth aged 18 years or younger:

“We want to make health clinics easier to access and remove barriers to access. … We’ve found that when health clinics are located at schools, they are used more frequently.”

Beyond improving health outcomes, the clinics help students learn, said West Contra Costa County Unified School District spokesman Marcus Walton:

“Right now we’re still gathering more data, but (the clinics) are about making sure that students don’t have to miss school for illness or to take care of medical issues that maybe they let fester or linger. … Making sure the students have a safe place with people they can trust is also an important component of keeping students in school and engaged.”

Students often struggle to access health services, said Sue Crosby, director of public health clinic services at Contra Costa Health Services:

“For young people, there can be all kinds of barriers to care. … We’ve found (the health clinics) to be a really effective way to bring health care to the teens.”

At the Kennedy High School, Crosby said the county was able to renovate an existing classroom and outfit it with a medical exam room, a dental exam room, a classroom, and a lobby or reception area:

“It’s all really nicely done. It’s not childish but really teen-friendly.”

Crosby added that all of the artwork is done by students.

Walton said the health clinics fulfill the district’s goal of serving the “whole child,” Walton said:

“We want to make sure we are doing everything we can to support our students so our students can help fulfill their potential.”