03/26/04 — Wayne only county to have four credentialed school health centers

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Wayne only county to have four credentialed school health centers

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on March 26, 2004 2:04 PM

Wayne County has become the only county in the state to have four accredited school-based health centers.

The centers are at Brogden, Goldsboro, Dillard and Mount Olive middle schools.

Phyllis Hill, director of Wayne Initiative for School Health, or WISH, said the criteria for earning accreditation is as stringent as that used for a hospital. Among the areas considered are procedures, equipment and safety.

She said the credentials are valid for three years. Centers at Goldsboro and Brogden schools, which opened in 1997, received credentials three years ago. The other two centers opened later, Dillard in 2000 and Mount Olive in 2001.

Ms. Hill said that there are numerous school-based centers in the United States, particularly in the north. She estimated that North Carolina currently has 42, but not all of them are accredited. She speaks proudly of what WISH means for the school system and its students.

"I think WISH school-based health centers are a wonderful program providing health care services to students," she said. "The state has recommended that the centers in Wayne County be used as a model for other counties looking at setting up school-based health centers."

She described the centers as being like a mini doctor's office. Each clinic is staffed by nurse practitioners, registered nurses, social workers, nutritionists and dental hygienists. Services include primary medical care, education, preventive screenings, mental health care, nutrition, dental and vision services, and hearing checks. Students can also receive immunization, physicals and prescriptions.

Ms. Hill said that appointments are scheduled during a student's elective classes, but a student can also come in on a walk-in basis with a teacher's permission.

The real proof of the centers' success has been beyond the measure of good health, she said.

"Since these have been established," she said, "we have seen absentee rates go down, decreased pregnancy rates, and a decrease in behavior problems."

Dr. David Tayloe of Goldsboro Pediatrics, who is chairman of the WISH Board of Directors, has supported the program from the outset, when Wayne Memorial Hospital was first contacted about the program.

"The impressive thing about WISH is the hospital was contacted by people at Duke Endowment and the state Department of Health and Human Services, saying we need to do something about the number of uninsured children in our schools," he said. "The hospital contacted me and we began putting together this coalition.

"It's a free-standing corporation; nobody owns it." He calls it one of the better joint ventures he has ever seen.

"It's pulled in probably millions of dollars in outside funding and continues to pull in maximum state funding because of the credentialing," he said.

But in a time of budget cuts, the question now is how to keep that momentum going, he said. He said he is committed to finding ways to keep the program going, and is adamant about the need to continue a similar program in the high schools.

"The gaps at Southern Wayne and Goldsboro High School are unacceptable after these kids have gone through the WISH centers at middle schools," he said. "In my opinion, we ought to expand it to the high schools where these kids are going after the middle schools."

He said that a plan is being put together through federal funding to have a nurse at Goldsboro High School next year.

For now, though, Tayloe said he is proud of the outcomes the WISH centers have produced.

"You have to realize that we have targeted schools," he said. "Going in there, we're trying to intervene. So far, our intervention numbers are impressive."

He said that more than 85 percent of students in each school are registered in the centers. Of those, he said, 90 percent see a mental health specialist.

"That blew me away with I realized that degree of need," he said. "Those are mental health needs that we're meeting early at WISH."