For some local students, going to the doctor or dentist will soon be as easy and affordable as going to school.
"I am very pleased that Primary Healthcare Center partnered with our school system to bring this vital resource, a school-based health center, to children attending Tiger Creek Elementary School," Catoosa County Public Schools Superintendent Denia Reese said.
School-Based Health Centers (SBHC) have been recognized as improving the overall health and well-being of children and adolescents by offering comprehensive health care.
"Having these medical and dental services will improve attendance and student achievement," Reese said.
The 2011 Kids Count Data Book, a national study on the overall well-being of America's children, ranked Georgia 42nd in the nation with about 300,000 of the state's children being uninsured and having very limited access to routine health care.
"In order to address the needs of these children we have to expand the safety net in our state to capture those who fall through the cracks of our health care system," said Veda Johnson, M.D., associate professor of pediatrics at Emory School of Medicine and executive director of the Pediatric Urban Health Program.
That Tiger Creek can offer comprehensive medical and dental care to its students is being made possible by a $500,000 grant from the Healthcare Georgia Foundation made through Emory University's Pediatric Urban Health Program.
When the grant was announced, Johnson said, "School-based health centers are a holistic approach to caring for underserved children in the context of everything that affects their lives."
Services typically include the diagnosis and treatment of acute and chronic illnesses, universal health screenings, integration of behavioral health into primary care services and wraparound services that support the student, their families and the school system. As a result, students served by a SBHC are better able to learn and achieve greater academic success according to officials.
Diana Allen, CEO of Primary Healthcare Centers, said two years of hard work, determination and planning led to a grant being awarded for the Tiger Creek project.
"We are very appreciative and honored that PHC and Catoosa County Public Schools have been chosen as one of three recipients of this grant award in Georgia," she said.
The grant will fund a fully functioning clinic space complete with exam rooms, laboratory and waiting room that will be staffed by a nurse practitioner and complement services currently provided by the school nurse, Allen said.
Current plans call for the in-school clinic to open in January 2013, shortly after classes resume following the school system's Christmas holiday.
"The school-based health care center will greatly expand the resources of our school nurse," Reese said. "Having access to services at school is also a benefit for parents so they don't have to leave work to take their child to the doctor or dentist."
Partnering with Primary Healthcare Centers means a dentist will also serve the Tiger Creek students. That is something officials say will improve more than students' smiles.
"As a child, my family struggled to provide dental care," Reese said. "Good dental hygiene is very important to the overall health and self-esteem of children. I would like to thank everyone who has worked so hard to make this school-based health care center a reality."