School-Based Health Centers
School-based health centers (SBHCs), also referred to as school health centers, provide comprehensive medical and/or mental health care. Services may include physical exams, screenings, immunizations, management of chronic conditions, age-appropriate reproductive health care for adolescents, primary medical care for injuries and illness, laboratory tests, tuberculosis tests, over-the-counter medications and prescription writing, and referrals and coordination of outside services. Clinicians delivering medical care include nurse practitioners, physician assistants, physicians, residents, medical assistants and nurses. To learn more, review our Guidelines for California School Health Centers. Note that the federal definition of a school health center requires that the center provide both medical and mental health services, and many school health centers in California do provide both of these primary care services.
School Nursing Programs
School nursing programs focus on the prevention of illness and disability and the early detection and correction of health problems. As registered nurses, school nurses can assess for health problems (e.g., conduct vision and hearing screenings), deliver some health services (e.g., administer immunizations and insulin), and provide health education to students, families and staff; they often also coordinate school or district-wide health programs. Read more about the role of school nurses or visit the California School Nurses Organization website.
Student Counseling and Mental Health Programs
Student counseling and mental health programs provide assessments and interventions to support students’ mental and emotional wellbeing. These interventions may include crisis response, individual, group, or family counseling, drug or alcohol treatment, staff consultation on student behavior, classroom-based social and personal skill development, and family supports and linkages. School social workers, counselors, psychologists and other registered or licensed mental health clinicians provide these services. These programs are sometimes organized as a school wellness center. Learn more about San Francisco’s Wellness Centers. For more information about school mental health programs, visit UCLA’s Center for Mental Health in Schoolsand the California Association of School Psychologists.
School-Linked Health Services
School-linked health services or telehealth services are most appropriate when it is not feasible, or not the best use of resources, to bring clinical providers into the school. School-linked services exist when a local community health program, such as a community clinic, has a formalized, well-coordinated linkage to one or more schools. Students and families may easily access services at the community health site, and school staff know how to facilitate needed services through a close working relationship with the community health program. Read a case study of a school-linked health center in Ontario, CA.
School telehealth services connect schools to health care providers, using existing distance learning equipment and data lines (and sometimes also specialized remote medical equipment). Telehealth services allow medical providers to remotely assess an acute care problem, improve management of chronic diseases like diabetes, and increase access to mental health care, especially to psychiatrists who can prescribe and follow-up on needed medications, such as for ADHD. Read The Children’s Partnership Executive Summary ofSchool-Based Telehealth: An Innovative Approach to Meet the Health Care Needs of California’s Children.
Mobile clinics bring health care to one or more schools using an RV-style van that’s fully equipped with exam rooms and needed medical equipment. Mobile clinics may provide comprehensive medical care, oral health care, or specialty care for conditions like asthma. Mobile health clinics increase access to needed services in rural and urban areas alike, and are usually more economical than building several school-based clinical facilities. Read a case study of a medical mobile van in Fresno County.
Oral Health Programs
Oral health programs provide oral health assessments and, sometimes, treatments to prevent or remediate dental disease. These services range from oral health education, to assessments or dental sealant programs, to actual treatment of cavities. Lead personnel may include school nurses, dental hygienists and assistants, and dentists. When required, specialized dental equipment may be brought into a school health center or onto a school campus in a mobile van; alternatively, specialized equipment may be located off-site, in which case the school facilitates transportation to treatment services as indicated. Learn more about school oral health policies at the Center for Oral Health website.
Health Promotion Programs
Health promotion programs may cover a range of topics, including healthy eating and active living (obesity prevention), drug, alcohol and tobacco use prevention, communicable disease prevention, comprehensive sexual health education, violence prevention, and the development of positive school climate. Various staff may develop and deliver these programs, from classroom teachers to nurses to certified health education specialists. Health promotion programs can be delivered in the classroom, in a school health center, after school, or through school wide campaigns. See California’s Health Education Content Standards for more information on school health promotion programs.
Recognizing the fact that students come to school with many diverse needs, community schools bring a variety of essential services onto campuses with the goal of providing a comprehensive set of supports — often including health services — to children and families. According to the Coalition for Community Schools, a community school is both a place and a set of partnerships between the school and other community resources.(1) Community schools are centers of the community, and they keep their doors open longer hours, including evenings, weekends, and during vacations. Learn more about community schools and access resources for starting and running them.