Tacoma’s first school-based clinic will provide care on campus
A new MultiCare Health Clinic at Oakland High School, the first of its kind in Tacoma, is helping students succeed in school by allowing them to focus on graduation without having to leave campus for health care.
Oakland High School serves students from 14-21 years old and has historically operated as an alternative school, although it now offers a complete catalog of core classes, electives, and Advanced Placement courses. Many Oakland students face socioeconomic challenges that put them at a disadvantage when it comes to their long-term health equity and financial prosperity. Graduation rates lag behind the state and city averages.
Oakland administrators, led by principal John Jones, are working to turn those numbers around. As part of their efforts, the school wanted to create a health care solution that would address their students' needs in a way that supported convenience and attendance. They envisioned a clinic that would provide students (and many students' children who attend the on-site day care) access to both medical and behavioral health care without leaving campus.
“Our kids are wonderful, they are smart, they are resilient. Once we can remove those barriers and get them here, I believe we can keep them here to graduate and do great things,” Jones says. “The students that come here deserve the support of those wraparound services.”
The concept evolved over several years into a partnership between Tacoma Public Schools, MultiCare and Communities in Schools.
“The common vision became a labor of love and no matter what the obstacle, one of our partners would step up and we would find a way,” Jones says. “We wanted to provide services that would help them stay in school and remove any barriers that we could.”
MultiCare physicians and nurse practitioners staff the clinic and provide preventive care, behavioral health care and treatment for illness and injury. As a community-focused organization, MultiCare recognized the value in the clinic as part of its broader mission to care for the community from a population-health perspective. Dropping out of high school has been shown to negatively impact employment opportunities, lifetime earnings as well as health outcomes.
“One of the major determinants of health is education, not only the ability to excel and graduate, but to do it in a way where they are healthy and thriving, both in terms of their physical health and behavioral health,” says Lois Bernstein, MultiCare’s Chief Community Executive.
Communities in Schools coordinates a comprehensive range of services to support students in schools that face the largest dropout rates; last year they provided services or resources to 11,874 students. For the Oakland clinic, they are helping students and families under their insurance options.
Passia Abraham, Oakland Communities in Schools’ coordinator, works with the students one-on-one.
“That individual help really makes a difference,” she says.
The school hosted a grand opening celebration for the clinic April 23, with an all-school assembly for the students and their families. At the event, Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards provided words of encouragement to the students and expressed gratitude to the partners involved in bringing the clinic to fruition.
“No other school has this. This is an amazing opportunity for all of you to be able to come to school and have your needs taken care of right here,” she says. “When partners are passionate about serving the community, when they come together, there is no limit to what they can accomplish.”
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