“Students from Dominguez High School, you now have no excuse for missing class for a doctor’s appointment,” Compton School board member Skyy Fisher told dozens of high school students at the opening of the St. John’s Well Child & Family Center at Dominguez High School recently.
The St. John’s Well Child & Family Center at Dominguez High School is one of eight new school-based health centers in the Second District, with on-site health care available not only to students but to the community at large. Now students are able to walk a few yards on campus to visit a brightly colored, full-scale health center complete with doctors, nurses, dentistry services and even a small-scale pharmacy.
“I’ll definitely come for the dental care and flu shots,” said Laura Olmos, a senior at Dominguez High School. “All students need health care. I think it’s going to be a big hit in our community.”
Jasmine Roby is a 17-year-old senior at Dominguez High School. She is studying to be a certified nursing assistant. “This center will help our community,” she said. “I’m going to volunteer to help in the clinic. We’ll have healthier students.”
Lack of easy access to health care can adversely impact a child’s education, according to S. Nomsa Khalfani, chief of Policy and Support Services at St. John’s Well Child & Family Center. Recently, administrators at Dominguez discovered a boy was missing days of school because he was sick but had not gone to the doctor because his family lacked insurance. The center, which has been operating on a part-time basis since September, was able to treat him and follow up with the family to make sure he was recovering.
“Enabling students, [or their parents] to have access to health care without missing school or work so they can go to the doctor is important,” said Khalfani. “Schools are a hub where families get resources and where students and families can get help quickly.”
Providing access to health care is a priority for Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas, who has secured $4.1 million in county funds and partnered with the Los Angeles, Compton and Lennox Unified School Districts to build the centers. At the centers, students and their families can be treated for acute illnesses, such as the flu, or chronic conditions, such as asthma and diabetes. They can receive pre-natal care, reproductive health care, immunizations, dental care, vision and treatment for hearing problems.
“Sick children cannot learn well,” said Chairman Ridley-Thomas. “This is where easy access to medical care and preventing illnesses begins. Health is fundamentally important. And the more school based health centers that we build, the better this community will be.”
As part of a national emphasis on preventive care, nearly 2,000 school-based health centers have been opened nationwide, according to the most recent National Assembly on School-Based Health Care census. Los Angeles aims to be one of the leaders in the country.
“We really want to be seen as a medical home not just for students but for communities that we serve,” said Khalfani “Some people think of a school-based clinic as a nurse’s office. But this center is like walking into any other doctor’s office.”