New school-based clinic puts students on the road to wellness

In an area that lacks options for pediatric care and where a significant proportion of the community is underserved, a school-based health and wellness center is making a difference with New Castle-area families.

The center at Eisenberg Elementary School in the Colonial School District is the first one to be located at a Delaware public elementary school. High schools already make school-based health services available to students.

"This school was our least performing school. It was underperforming. It had been underperforming for years," Colonial School District Superintendent Dr. Dusty Blakey said at Thursday's ribbon-cutting for the facility. "It was incumbent upon us to do something."

The district worked with Nemours, owner and operator of A. I. duPont Hospital for Children, to offer physical and behavioral health services at the school. The center is open during regular school hours.

"Kids can be seen by a psychologist, a therapist or a social worker, or they can be seen by a nurse practictioner," School-Based Health Center Medical Director Dr. Jonathan Miller said. 

"We're trying to bring health care to the school so kinds don't have to be missing school and parents don't have to miss work," Miller added.

Nekyhzia Gibbs, a single mother who has a full-time job - and is studying to be a dentist - appreciates having the option available.

"Because my daughter is with Nemours, they're able to share information. That's truly helpful," Gibbs said. "Instead of having to take off work I can just send her down to the wellness center."

Services are offered regardless of a family's ability to pay. According to the district, 45% of students who are enrolled in the Life Health Center did not have a primary care provider, and about half of the school's students had signed up to receive services.

The school and staff at the center will also try to connect students with primary care providers outside of the school. 

Wellness Center hours are Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.