Fairfield awarded $3.24M for school-based health center


The Fairfield Local School District and Highland Health Providers are partnering to open a new school-based health center and STEM — Workforce Center thanks to a $3,235,560 grant announced Thursday as part of Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s ongoing investment in Ohio’s Appalachian communities.

The Appalachian Children’s Health Initiative, announced by Gov. DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, is a more than $64 million investment that includes dozens of projects to improve access to health care in 36 communities across 20 Appalachian counties in Ohio. It is the largest investment in school-based health services in Ohio.

In partnership with Highland Health Providers (HHP), Fairfield will build and open a school-based health center in the Fairfield Local School District to meet the health and wellness needs of students, families and the local community. Services will be provided through a mix of on-site and telehealth resources providing access to both comprehensive primary care and mental and behavioral health resources, to decrease behaviors such as student tardiness and absenteeism.

Additionally, Fairfield Local will add classroom space to support workforce development and STEM education expansion and will be leveraged as an extension of the established career readiness program.

“We are excited to announce our partnership with Highland Health Providers to establish a school-based health center within the Fairfield Local School District,” said Kesia McCoy, Fairfield superintendent. “This initiative represents a significant step forward in our commitment to prioritize the health and wellness of our students and community. In addition to health services, this project will also facilitate the expansion of classroom space to support workforce development and STEM education. We envision our school as an incubator for career readiness, equipping students with the skills and resources they need for success in today’s evolving workforce.”

Highland Health Providers Executive Director Mandy Warix said, “We are thrilled to be partnering with the Fairfield Local School District to invest in health equity opportunities within this community. Being selected as a recipient of funds from the Appalachian Children’s Health Initiative allows Highland Health Providers to further our mission to provide exceptional, accessible, quality health care where gaps exist within our public health system. We look forward to providing exceptional care not only to the students and staff at Fairfield Local Schools, but also the community at large.”

The grant proposal was prepared by Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus on behalf of the Appalachian Children Coalition to improve children’s access to the care they need where they spend most of their time — in school. The new or expanded services, including primary care, behavioral health and preventive care, will reach nearly 375,000 youth, families and community members. Each project varies based on community needs.

“We appreciate Gov. DeWine’s commitment to the health of children in the Appalachian region and are excited to be able to lead the effort to bring local health care services to meet their needs,” said Randy Leite, PhD, executive director of the Appalachian Children Coalition. “For many children and families, the lack of access to local health care services leads to any number of negative health and educational outcomes. The school-based clinics and services to be developed as part of this program will provide access that is so desperately needed. We share Gov. DeWine’s commitment to our children and know that our many partners in this effort do, too.”

Schools can play a critical role in improving a child’s health and well-being. More than 150 traditional school-based health center sites operate or are under development in Ohio, according to the Ohio School-Based Health Alliance. This project will open 16 new school-based health centers, along with mobile care services, behavioral health services, dental services and mobile vision services.

To ensure seamless implementation across the many projects, and sustained success of these efforts and investment, the project incorporates built-in technical assistance support from Nationwide Children’s, which operates 17 school-based primary care clinics in central Ohio and has partnered with the state, health care providers, nonprofit funders, school nurses and school districts across the state to support the development of school-based health programs in over 38 mostly Appalachian counties.

“We know that children can reach their full potential in the classroom when they are healthy, live in a safe and stable environment, and have access to the resources they need,” said Mary Kay Irwin, senior director of school health services for Nationwide Children’s. “By partnering with schools, we are helping many children access important care they would otherwise not receive. If we want to improve health outcomes for all children, we must work together and meet families where they are.”

This $64 million investment in school-based and community health is part of the state’s $500 million “OhioBuilds – Small Communities – Big Impact – A Plan for Appalachia” community grant program announced in 2022. The program is administered by the Governor’s Office of Appalachia within the Ohio Department of Development.

This story was provided by Ashlee Cheesbro, marketing manager, Highland District Hospital.

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