Reframing the Crisis: Opportunities in School-Based Health Center Dental Services

By Molly Wu

Oral health support in school-based health centers is facing two main issues: funding and coverage. Oral health is unlike mental health or physical health. Less attention is given to oral health than other aspects of health because of the cost and popularity. As we all know, the cost of dental care is not always affordable, especially for students who come from families with high socioeconomic needs. According to the article School-Based Health Centers Facing Cuts Under Governor’s Proposed Budget, there were 96 school-based health centers in Connecticut impacted by the decline in state funding since 2014. Three of them eventually closed in 2016 due to lack of funding. Before these three centers were forced to closed completely, they looked for ways to stick with the schools and students until the last minute. But with the funding crisis, dental health services were the first to go due to the high costs and its relatively “low” significance to students.

State and other sources of funding carefully examine the needs of funding before distributing money to school-based health centers. Medical, behavioral and mental health services are usually the ones that have the greatest impact on students. As a result, these services generally receive more attention from the public, and therefore more funds from institutional sectors. Oral health services become a minority in this case, and we have a lot of room to improve the coverage of dental services in school-based health centers. There are more students with dental problems than we can think of due to the lack of education and service they receive. Their expressions of dental issues are not very clear and strong, which cause us to underestimate the importance of dental health service in school-based health centers.

Due to lack of funding, some school-based health centers might decide to skip dental services and put that residual funding into medical health, behavioral health and mental health services. However, the important part of dental health service is not about remedy, but rather prevention and education. It costs about $2001 per child for standard preventative services, such as general exams, cleanings, and x-rays. It might seem like a lot of money when you first see this amount, but compared to other treatments and procedures like fillings and extractions, it is much more affordable since these services cost at least three or four times less than special treatments.

When we talk about school-based dental care, it doesn’t necessarily mean that we have to provide the full scope of service like a dentist’s office. Offering students the appropriate and timely education and providing them with general check-ups are more important. This help can eliminate the gap between students and dentists’ offices and solve the problem from the origin. The impact will be more profound and meaningful in the long term.

1Average Cost Of Dental Exam And Cleaning | Kool Smiles. (n.d.). Retrieved from

School-Based Health Center Spotlight: Shop 55 @ Oakland High

Youth Board Consultant Allison Chan, BSN, RN visits Shop 55 at Oakland High School.

Youth Board Consultant Allison Chan, BSN, RN visits Shop 55 at Oakland High School.

By Allison Chan, BSN, RN

Shop 55 is a school-based health center located at Oakland High School in Oakland, California. Being conveniently located on campus, it allows students to easily access health services without missing school. The health center not only functions as a clinic, but also a resource center centered around youth development and engagement.

Shop 55 is run by a partnership of a variety of agencies, including Asian American Health Services, La Clinica, Oakland Unified School District (OUSD), and East Bay Asian Youth Center (EBAYC). EBAYC is a large organization rooted in the community and supported by over 2,000 youth and family members. They develop afterschool programs, participate in civil and social engagement, tackle important topics, and work on strategies to involve officials and businesses in the community. The EBAYC Board of Directors is comprised of parents, students, neighborhoods and community members, with over half of board members being former participants of EBAYC.

Building Shop 55 stemmed from a community effort that involved students, teachers, and the entire community. Shop 55 is sustained through various city, county, and agency funding and reimbursements through MediCal. The clinic is open Tuesdays and Thursdays with doctors, nurse practitioners, school nurses, behavioral partners and medical assistants on site. The clinic provides direct medical and reproductive health services, health care case management, first aid, mobile dental, hearing, vision, individual and group counseling, and an on-call crisis counseling line. One amazing way Shop 55 has found a way to maximize their services is to provide all-over care for improving student health and academic learning – for example, if a student fails a vision or hearing exam, they are given new free glasses or given referrals for hearing aids to decrease any academic obstacles that may be present.

Shop 55 posters created by Oakland High students to show support for immigrant communities.

Shop 55 posters created by Oakland High students to show support for immigrant communities.

While also serving as a clinic, Shop 55 is big on youth development and engagement. They offer many opportunities for students, such as afterschool programs, academic support, enrichment programs, employment and internship positions, leadership-based research projects, and even has a Youth Advisory Board (YAB) to address various issues, advocate, and bring about awareness, change, and policy. Shop 55 at Oakland High School also has a Public Health Academy, where students learn about health careers and education from actual health professionals who teach them practical skills and expose students to the world of healthcare.

In an interview with Rany Ath, Director of Shop 55, she highlights the phrase “one-stop shop” to represent Shop 55. If it’s one thing she wants everyone to know, it’s that Shop 55 is a collective and collaborative effort that requires dedication, commitment, integration, partnership, and intersection in the Oakland High and Oakland community. All these qualities are embedded in their work in decreasing health barriers to achieve greater academic success and achievement, as well as decreasing the stigma of what school-based health centers are by providing a spectrum of services for youth that involves privacy and neutrality.

2014 Youth Conferences Focus on Health Careers

LAUSD high school students at the Y2Y SoCal conference on March 28.

LAUSD high school students at the Y2Y SoCal conference on March 28.

More than 120 youth from Northern and Southern California attended two separate conferences in March and April that focused on educating high school students about careers in health care. All participants are active members of the youth advisory boards at their school-based health centers.

See our photos from Los Angeles and Oakland.

Youth advisory boards provide students with leadership opportunities through peer health education, school and community advocacy programs, and health care internships and jobs. We developed these one-day conferences in partnership with the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation and the California Office of Statewide Health Planning & Development in order to cultivate an interest in health care careers in youth who are served by school-based health centers. Our goal is for students who benefit from school-based health care to pursue a career as a health care provider in order to better serve the needs of California’s kids.

Students speak with adults who are pursuing careers in public health.

Students speak with adults who are pursuing careers in public health.

In Los Angeles, 60 LAUSD high school students learned about health care careers and public health challenges that affect their communities, all while meeting fellow youth advisory board members from other schools. The L.A. Trust helped us organize the March 28 conference, which was hosted by The California Endowment at their beautiful downtown L.A. headquarters.

In Oakland, we brought together 66 students from high schools in Oakland, Richmond, San Francisco, and San Jose. The April 9 NorCal conference was also graciously hosted by The California Endowment at their Oakland conference center. Students participated in the following activities throughout the day:

  • A keynote address by Dr. Tomás A. Magaña, founder and Director of the FACES of the Future Coalition.
  • Panel conversations with adults who are either pursuing a career in public health or already practicing. Panelists included two physicians, a medical assistant pursuing a nursing degree, a family nurse, and two health educators.
  • An overview of mental health disorders presented by NAMI California.
  • A workshop on how to advocate for healthier school lunch choices, presented by the Youth Wellness Team at Oakland Tech High School.
  • Workshops on public speaking and applying to medical school, presented by our Youth Board.
  • A health career resource fair staffed by the Alameda County Health Pipeline Partnership.

Our 2014 conferences build on our successful 2013 events and are a continuation of our work to develop the capacity of school-based health center youth advisory boards. Are you interested in learning how you can build youth engagement at your school-based health center? Contact us to learn more.

Statewide Youth Gatherings Boost Skills, Leadership

Y2Y-SoCal-AttendeesWe brought together nearly 200 high school students and more than 60 adult allies during two Youth-2-Youth (Y2Y) conferences — one in Oakland on February 13 and one in Los Angeles on April 5. The gatherings increased leadership skills for youth peer-to-peer health educators from high schools in Northern and Southern California.

In mid-February our Y2Y Network hosted Y2Y NorCal in Oakland that was attended by 105 people — including 75 youth and 30 adult allies — from 18 high schools in the greater Bay Area. Y2Y SoCal was held April 5 in Los Angeles and brought together 101 youth and 31 adult allies from six high schools, with adult allies also representing several health care and health justice organizations in the L.A. region.

NorCal Photos | NorCal Video | SoCal Photos

Y2Y NorCal Symposium 2013Both events were well organized by our Youth Board. The NorCal conference was hosted by The California Endowment at their beautiful facility overlooking downtown Oakland, while the SoCal event was held at the Children’s Bureau’s cheery and art-filled Magnolia Place Family Center in South Los Angeles.

Youth participants attended workshops aimed at increasing public speaking skills, getting a better understanding of the impact popular culture has on public health, developing leadership skills, learning about pathways to pursuing a higher education in public health, and maximizing their impact as community leaders.

Adult allies attended workshops aimed at leveraging their strengths as coordinators, as well as building greater public visibility for their health centers and their youth-led programs.

Visit our Y2Y Network page for more information and to see a summary of past activities.


In this video taken during Y2Y NorCal, students share why their school-based health centers are making a difference:

Garfield Y2Y Youth Prep for Final Presentation

On May 17, Youth Board member Daniel Yim met with six young student leaders in Garfield High School. Daniel was helping them prepare the data that they have collected in the last month on the accessibility of Garfield’s school based health center.

Along with prepping the data, Daniel also made them practice their speaking points in order for them to take the data to the Garfield school administrators to get the school health center be more accessible to the students. “Essentially, when I said that I wanted everyone to be prepared to share/speak to administrators they all gasped, WHAT?” said Daniel about the students’ reaction to what they needed to do to present the data. Daniel explained that the students are enthusiastic about the opportunity and he will be meeting with them regularly to assist them with the presentation and other goals that they want to reach.

The student leaders will meet with school administrators on Monday, June 4th.

Student Coalition Gets to the ROOTS

Students from Richmond and De Anza High Schools discuss health hot spots throughout the Bay

Throughout the months of March and April, members of the West Contra Costa Unified School District Student Coalition (link to page) have participated in a series of workshops entitled “Space MATTERS.” Facilitated by University of California, Berkeley students Cynthia Karina Leon and Becky Lee, the coalition members analyzed systemic health issues and decades-old policies that have led to disparate health outcomes for low-income communities throughout the Bay Area. For more information on the “Space MATTERS” workshop series, please contact Kat Gutierrez at

First Statewide Youth-to-Youth (Y2Y) Conference

The first statewide Y2Y Conference in Sacramento was held in conjunction with our statewide conference. The Y2Y Conference hosted 31 students from nine high schools across the state that are part of CSHC’s Y2Y Program. Our Y2Y sites shared their current youth-led research projects on topics such as teen pregnancy, school safety, mental health services, and SBHC usage. The youth also participated in School Health Day at the Capitol, and many made their first legislative visits ever.

Basic Skills Workshop @ Kennedy High School

A few weeks ago, I organized a workshop specifically aimed at some skills that I felt that my youth team needed to improve on. The Kennedy High School Youth Board, Yvette, Bianca, and myself were among those who were in attendance. The workshop ran for about 2 hours in length; it was followed by lunch. In the workshop, I covered topics like: public speaking, goal setting, and the importance of teamwork. They felt like they needed to learn about these skills because these are skills that they will be implementing in a few months.
REFLECTIONS: At the end of my workshop, I felt good knowing that my site understood what I was trying to get across to them. It was important to me that they understood the information, and I felt that I did a good job.
By Bre’Onna Wills

Youth In Action Blog

Cesar Chavez High School Health SLC Club at the Central Valley Y2Y Training in Riverbank, CA

The Y2Y Affiliate Program is in full-swing in eight communities across California. Each site has finished developing a research tool and will commence data collection soon! Return to the Youth in Action blog for more site-by-site updates from the CSHC Youth Board and some of our very own Y2Y youth.