North Country Family Health Center (NCFHC) joins School-Based Health Center (SBHC) providers and advocates from across the nation in recognizing the month of February as National School-Based Health Care Awareness Month. National School-Based Health Care Awareness Month is sponsored by the School-Based Health Alliance, a national organization that promotes and supports SBHCs to assure all children receive high quality, comprehensive healthcare.
North Country Family Health Center opened its first school-based primary care site at North Elementary in the Watertown City School District in December 1993 and celebrated its 25th anniversary in December 2018. Since 1993, NCFHC has opened five additional School-Based Health Centers and expanded its school-based services to include not only medical services but dental and behavioral health services as well.
Today, NCFHC operates six permanent School-Based Health Centers in the Watertown City and South Jefferson School Districts. Students in the Watertown City School Districts are served at School-Based Health Centers at North Elementary (serves all elementary aged children), Harold T. Wiley Intermediate School, Case Middle School, and Watertown High School. Students in the South Jefferson School District are served at School-Based Health Centers at Mannsville Manor Elementary and Wilson Elementary. Students who attend the Clarke Middle/High School at South Jefferson may utilize the SBHCs at either Mannsville or Wilson Elementary. Additionally, NCFHC provides school-based dental only services via its mobile dental program to students at Alexandria Central, Copenhagen Central, Lowville Academy & Central School, Lyme Central, South Lewis Central, and at Jefferson-Lewis BOCES. In 2019, over 3,200 students utilized the services of NCFHC’s SBHCs and an additional 700 students enrolled in the mobile School-Based Dental Program. Currently NCFHC staffs 20 employees within its school-based sites.
“We are very proud of our School-Based Health Center Program and are especially proud of reaching the milestone of providing care to elementary students in the Watertown City School District for 25 years,” comments Joey Marie Horton, Chief Executive Officer, North Country Family Health Center. “Having the opportunity to provide care to children right where they are, in school, is critical to reducing barriers to care and ensuring more children receive timely, preventative healthcare services. Our goal is to help students stay well and avoid school absences – we truly believe that healthy students learn better.”
No student is turned away from the School-Based Program and all services are provided with no out of pocket cost to families. Therefore, health insurance co-pays and deductibles do not apply to families. Students are seen for sickness, chronic health issues, annual physical exams, preventative dental services, and counseling services to name a few.
“Our School-Based Health Program welcomes all students – those with insurance and those without; those with a primary care provider and those without. The School-Based Health Centers are a great back-up plan for parents as it can provide care directly where your child is – at school. We communicate with students’ primary care providers and coordinate the care they need – whether it is just a cold or a chronic ongoing issue,” states Heather Lupia, School-Based Health Center Program Administrator. “It is never too late to enroll in our school-based services either – students can enroll throughout the year.”
Any student can enroll to use the school-based services. Parents, or guardians, can visit www.NoCoFamilyHealth.org for more information. Anyone needing assistance enrolling their son or daughter can contact the School-Based Health Center Program Administrator, Heather Lupia, at email@example.com.