Quality of Life dedicates new School-Based Health Center facility

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On Thursday afternoon, Quality of Life Health Services, Inc. and many special guests celebrated the opening of a brand new, comprehensive school-based health center located between the campuses of Oscar Adams Elementary School and Litchfield Middle School. Gadsden Family and Student Health Solutions opened its door on November 24th after completion of a capital project to build a new site to replace a 2,400 square foot modular unit that has been in place since 2004. 

Wayne Rowe, Chief Executive Officer of Quality of Life Health Services, Inc. commented to the Dr. Ed Miller, Superintendent of Education for Gadsden City Schools that “the facility belongs to the Board of Education and the students, and I want the new center to be used by our schools.” The dedication of the new center represents another step towards the ultimate goal set by Wayne Rowe which was set years ago when Rowe served on the Gadsden City Board of Education, which was to make the link between health care and the schools seamless. Rowe holds the distinct honor of being selected as the first African-American Board President.  Beyond his service on the school board, Mr. Rowe retained his vision and continued to partner with Gadsden City Schools to bring health care programs to our youth.  This began when Quality of Life was funded to establish a school-based health center within the Gadsden City System in 2004. Then, in 2012, the Quality Health Express, a mobile medical, dental and vision unit, was manufactured to use in the Gadsden City School system.  And, now Rowe’s most recent accomplishment is a new school-based center at 1216 Wilbanks Avenue in East Gadsden. 

According to Rowe, the advantage of the new site is “the capacity to blend medical care, dental care and optometry with preventive and psychosocial services to offer a holistic approach to care for our school children.”  The new site will have space for a full dental program, a mental health professional and a health educator in addition to medical services. 

Dr. Ed Miller was excited to participate in the opening of the new site. “We all know that students perform better when they show up for class healthy and ready to learn” so a school-based health center (SBHC) in our schools gives us a distinct advantage in offering a top-notch education.  Through the services of Quality of Life at the new site and on the mobile unit, our school children can obtain annual physicals, have their teeth examined and their eyes checked, or speak to a mental health counselor in a safe, nurturing place – without the barriers that families too often face. 

Congressman Aderholt, who was on hand for the ceremony and stated that is was appropriate to conduct the dedication during the School-based Health Center Awareness month.  The 2015 theme of the event, held each February is Health + Education = Success.  The Gadsden Family and Student Health Solutions exist at the intersection of education and health and are the glue that prevents children and adolescents from falling through the cracks. The school-based sites provide care – primary health, mental health and counseling, family outreach, and chronic illness management – without concern for the student’s ability to pay and in a location that meets students where they are: at school. 

The SBHC operated by Quality of Life is one of three SBHCs in the state of Alabama.  According to Rowe, “there are 2,000 SBHCs nationwide, but only 20 % receive the funding provided to Quality of Life through the HRSA Health Center Program. Thankfully, this project has been supported by our U.S. Senators, and U.S. Congressman Robert Aderholt. Congressman Aderholt has been behind this project since day one, when Quality of Life applied for a planning grant in 2002. We can never thank him enough for all he has done.”

Quality of Life Health Services, Inc. (QOLHS) obtained funding from the Public Health Service (PHS) for a School-Based Health Center (SBHC) Planning grant in the fall of 2002.  One year was spent in preparation for a comprehensive school-based grant and implementation plan to operate a SBHC in a collaborative effort with Gadsden City Schools in northeastern Alabama.  At the end of 2003, QOLHS received Section 330 funding to locate a SBHC on the campus of the Oscar Adams Elementary School. Congressman Robert Aderholt was on hand to present a check to Quality of Life’s CEO, Wayne Rowe, in a dedication ceremony. Gadsden Family and Student Health Solutions opened in March of 2004.  The services offered at the site are available to all students of Gadsden City Schools, their siblings and family members. Services available at the comprehensive primary care center are: primary medical care, dental services, mental health and health education.  The target population is the student body of Gadsden City Schools.  The school district consists of eight (8) elementary schools, three (3) middle schools and one (1) large consolidated high school.  Total enrollment is upwards of 5,554 students, of which sixty-six percent (66%) have family income below two hundred percent (200%) of the Federal Poverty level. 

In 2011, Quality of Life received funding for an “equipment only” grant available through the School-Based Health Center Capital Program. The center used these funds to purchase a mobile unit equipped with medical equipment, dental equipment and computer equipment used for administering Electronic Medical Records and Electronic Dental Health Records. The mobile unit was delivered to Quality of Life in August of 2012. This mobile unit travels between the school campuses to improve access, to increase early identification of medical, dental and visions problems and to remove the transportation barrier. By purchasing this mobile unit fully-equipped to provide medical, dental and vision services, high-risk children will secure access to much-needed health care. 

Now, new funding has been made available to build a permanent facility for the school-based health center, which is currently operating out of a modular facility located next door to this building site.  The current location is too small and cannot support all the equipment needed to provide dental and vision services. Therefore, today marks the official beginning to a project that will improve efficiency and increase services to students and families of those connected with the Gadsden City School System. Dr. Ed Miller of Gadsden City Schools and Wayne Rowe, Chief Executive Officer of Quality of Life are to be congratulated on this very successful partnership. 

For more information on Gadsden Family and Student Health Solutions, call 256-439-6384. 

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