The Kerman Unified School District wants to keep its students healthy and at school.
And through a partnership with Valley Health Team, Inc., the district's goal is closer to become a reality. Last Thursday (Jan. 17), Valley Health Team and the school district broke ground on the KUSD Community Health Center, which is scheduled to open in August.
The school-based health center will open on the Kerman-Floyd Elementary School campus, 14655 West F St.
"The new KUSD Community Health Center will be filling a much-needed gap in health care," said Soyla Griffin, Valley Health Team CEO. "This is a historic moment."
The center, which will be inside a renovated school building, received a $500,000 grant from the affordable care act in July 2011. The health team partnered with the Kerman district to apply for the grant in 2010.
"It was a very competitive process," said Griffin.
Children will be provided with needed medical and behavioral health services, including immunizations, physical exams and counseling.
Griffin said many parents in the area are unable to access quality health care services for themselves and their children.
And some of the challenges that many people share is the lack of available and reliable transportation, Griffin said.
Kerman superintendent Robert Frausto said the district is very excited to work with VHT.
"We are very excited about opening the school-base health clinic. Our goal is to be open on August for the start of the school year," he said.
Frausto said the health center would serve the district's 5,000 students, their families and district staff.
According to Frausto, Kerman-Floyd elementary was selected because of its central location and walking distance from the other school campuses.
The center will have three examining rooms and one behavioral room.
Through this partnership, KUSD and VHT hope that the convenience of the community health center will make it easy for parents to take advantage of the quality service that will be offered.
Frausto said it would improve attendance rate and academic performance in the district.
"Our primary goal as educators is to teach," Frausto said, "and the reality here at Kern, many of the student don't have the more basic mental or health services."
According to Frausto said 80 percent of the district's students qualify for free or reduce lunch. More than 8 in 10 students are Latino.
"My job is to level the playfield so every student has the same opportunities," Frausto said.
School board member Daniel Babshoff said having the clinic on campus is a "great opportunity for our students."
"If kids are healthy, they are going to learn," Babshoff said.
Frausto said the district's goal is to "make it as easy as possible" for students to have access health care. As long as students have parents permission, Frausto said, students could be seen at the clinic without the need of having the parents present.
There are about 200 school health centers in California and 45 in the works, according to the California School Health Centers Association website.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 31 school health centers in California received more than $14 million in December through the federal health care reform law.
Fresno County Supervisor Phil Larson said the school-based health center is "an important addition for the kids for health care needs" in Kerman.
Dr. Ronald Domínguez will be the primary health care provider at the school clinic.
"A lot of patients and parents don't have the luxury to take time off from work," said Domínguez of one of the benefits for having the clinic on school ground. "It gives us the opportunity to reach students daily."