School health center moving forward

INDEPENDENCE — Grants totaling $300,000 have been awarded to the Central School District and Polk County Health and Human Services Department to go full-steam ahead with a new school-based health center.

The facility, dubbed Central Health and Wellness Center, will be built at 1601 Monmouth Ave. in Independence.

“The Ford Family Foundation informed us (Dec. 16) that they funded us fully (for the requested $100,000),” said Brent DeMoe, Polk County Health manager of family community outreach. “Meyer Memorial Trust said, ‘We like your proposal so much that we’re going to up the donation (from the requested $100,000) to $200,000. Is that OK with you?’”

It most certainly was.

DeMoe said the county and district now have enough money to start the bidding process and move forward with the remodel of the building, former home of Central High School’s alternative ed and teen parent program. The goal date to have the center open and operational is in May 2015.

“We got a grant of $40,000 from the Kaiser Permanente Foundation for outreach and marketing,” DeMoe said. “We will have a youth advisory council that is very specific to the school-based health center.”

The center will provide dental, health and mental health care to students only, at first, and may be open to families and district staff later. Eventually, the entire community may be able to use the facility, said Buzz Brazeau, Central School District superintendent.

“It will help the kids because … it makes care for our kids simple,” Brazeau said. “It increases dramatically the care available and decreases dramatically the time away from school.”

In studies leading up to the school board approving the center being built on district property, student and parent surveys showed that 61 percent of students miss half or a full day of school to attend medical appointments. Parents reported missing work — 56 percent — to take their child to an appointment.

According to school board policy, the health center will not provide contraception or condoms to students; however, the facility will be required to provide information and testing related to sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy.

DeMoe said he hopes to see construction and remodeling begin in January.

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