Michigan Department of Community Health has awarded a grant to the Health Department of Northwest Michigan to develop a child and adolescent health center in Pellston. From April to October, Health Department staff conducted an in-depth needs assessment that included documenting barriers to access health care and students' health risk behaviors. Their study included surveys of students, parents, and teachers, focus groups of parents and students, key informant interviews with community leaders, and school environment assessment with teachers.
Nine communities participated in intensive planning to compete for the seven-year grants. Only three--Cadillac, Detroit, and Pellston--received awards, based on documentation of local need for primary health care and support for a school-based health center. Grants are $120,000 per year for seven years, when requests for another seven year cycle can be submitted.
"We're delighted with the news," said Linda Yaroch, Deputy Health Officer for the Health Department of Northwest Michigan. "We knew we had a strong proposal in our partnership with Pellston schools, but with the current budget situation in Lansing we were not optimistic that any grants would be funded." The federal government provides a three to one match for the grant dollars, she said.
According to Yaroch, funding for the new school-based health center was preserved because they are a good investment of public funds. "Our philosophy is 'healthy kids learn better'," she said. "Child and adolescent health centers have over 20 years of robust research documenting their effectiveness in factors such as decreasing absenteeism and reducing unnecessary emergency room visits."
The child and adolescent health center is slated to open in the spring. A nurse practitioner and mental health worker will offer primary care and counseling services at the clinic, located in Pellston's middle/high school, year-round three days per week for youth age 5 to 21, and their young children. Children, adolescents, and young adults need not reside in the Pellston School District to receive services at the health center. Although Medicaid and other health insurance policies will be accepted, services are provided at no charge, as they are based on a sliding fee scale of the student's income.
Renovations will begin soon to make the clinic space, complete with waiting room, exam room, laboratory, and offices. The Oleson Foundation and Petoskey-Harbor Springs Area Community Foundation have provided start-up funds to supplement the MDCH grant.
"Bringing a school-based health center to Pellston has been a community-wide project," said Yaroch, Deputy Health Officer with the Health Department of Northwest Michigan. "MDCH was very impressed with the level of involvement from the school administrators and teachers, parents, and community organizations. We thank everyone who was involved in the planning process."
The Health Department of Northwest Michigan is mandated by the Michigan Public Health Code to promote wellness, prevent disease, provide quality healthcare, address health problems of vulnerable populations, and protect the environment for the residents and visitors of Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego counties. For additional information about the Pellston Child & Adolescent Health Center, contact Erika VanDam, Family & Community Health Supervisor at 231-347-5832.