Hamilton County's first school-based health clinic set to open at Howard Connect Academy

Staff file photo / Howard Connect Academy is seen Aug. 5, 2019, at 2500 Market St. in Chattanooga.

A new school-based health clinic at Howard Connect Academy is in the works — and it'll be a first for Hamilton County.

Though details are still being established, construction will begin soon. The Hamilton County Board of Education last week awarded a $94,000 construction bid to John Bryan Construction LLC, the lowest among five bidders for the project.

A school-based health clinic provides comprehensive, preventive and primary health care services to students. Parental consent is always required for students to receive care.

"The area specifically where we're going to have it has a lot of students that are disadvantaged in all areas, whether it be economically or by resources," Hamilton County Schools' Community Health Manager Layra Navarro-Flores said in a phone call. "We're doing a school-based health clinic because it's going to increase the access to health care, affordable health care, to those students and their families."

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It's being funded with part of a $12 million federal grant distributed to the district in 2020 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a response to COVID-19. The district allocated approximately $300,000 of the funding to the clinic, Navarro-Flores said.

"The idea was something that the district was planning on doing before COVID-19," Navarro-Flores said. "The grant just allowed us to expedite the process and get it started faster."

School-based health clinics are federally qualified clinics, meaning they receive funds from the federal Health Resources and Service Administration and must meet stringent requirements, like providing services on a sliding fee scale.

While the clinic is to be located at Howard Connect, on East 25th Street, school officials hope to open it to all students and families in need.

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"What we want out of a school-based health clinic is that any student could be seen at a clinic," Chief Strategy Officer Shannon Moody said in a phone call. "It's just like any clinic within our community."

Moody said specifics, like staffing, have yet to be decided as the district is working to finalize a partnership for the project. More information will be released soon, Moody said.

The clinic will include at least two exam rooms, and construction will be complete by the end of June.

Contact Carmen Nesbitt at cnesbitt@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6327