ROANOKE, Va. - People in Roanoke's southeast neighborhood will soon be getting easier access to health care.
Roanoke City Schools, Delta Dental, Carilion Clinic and Freedom First have partnered for this out-of-the-box approach, putting a clinic in a school.
The clinic will be accesible to the community, with student-driven health care during the day and family and neighbor-driven programs after the school day is over. It will be housed at the new Fallon Park Elementary and the adults in charge said the co-location at the school is the key to this program.
The construction at Fallon Park is the path to big changes. There are new classrooms, a new attitude, and now, Principal Nikki Mitchem and team will have a new clinic to serve students and the neighborhood.
"I think there's a need there because we do not have a medical facility in the community. This is something that the community has asked for," Mitchem said.
The clinic is expected to open in 2020. It will house the local impact for tomorrow, or LIFT program, as it's known. The mental and physical care side of the operation will be staffed by school nurses and nurse practitioners.
Carilion Clinic researched what the community wanted and Shirley Holland, vice president of planning and community development, said the research was clear.
"People really want to use health care where they live and if you're a child, that's school and it's also convenient for parents to be able to have these services during the day," Holland said.
Delta Dental will also work out of the clinic, providing dental and oral care. Freedom First will help with financial health, too, all important makeups of students' and families' overall well-being.
"Co-locating with the school is important because you're starting with children when they're young and are learning. It's our best opportunity to really affect their long-term health status," Holland said.
The children's care will take place during the day, while the community care will happen after the closing school bell rings. Some folks will receive services for free, but for many cost isn't the limiting factor, physical accessibility is.
"I think having those services right there at the school for the convenience of those families and the students is going to help them attend school on a more regular basis which is going to improve their academics," Mitchem said.
The goal of the program isn't to be a money driver, but rather a place to learn how to better prevent health problems before they happen. Asthma, for example, is one issue Fallon Park is dealing with and they'd like to get intervention programs in place.
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