Prompted by broad-based community support and burgeoning awareness of student health needs, Multnomah County is partnering with the Reynolds School District to bring a long-awaited Student Health Center to East County.
Set to open in April of 2020, the Reynolds Student Health Center is currently under construction at Reynolds High School, an anchor in the Troutdale neighborhood, home to the largest number of Medicaid insured youth in Multnomah County. It is also home to the greatest concentration of youth ages 11-19 who do not access basic health services, such as annual exams and mental health counseling.
The new 2,493-square-foot health center will house four exam rooms, a dental hygiene chair, a mental health counselor and a lab. Staff will provide comprehensive preventative, primary and mental health care for children ages 5 to 18 living in the county. And while the new center is geared primarily toward school-age youths living in east Multnomah County, students don’t have to attend the school to receive services.
There will be no out-of-pocket expense for services.
“A lot of students here don’t have access to health care because they are low-income,” says Luis Calderon, 17, a Reynolds High School senior and longtime resident of the Rockwood community, which is served by the Reynolds School District. “If you’re not feeling good then you’re not in the right mindset to learn, and that puts you at a huge disadvantage.”
The new center will be open three days a week and then increase to five days a week at the beginning of the next school year. With the addition of the Reynolds Student Health Center, Multnomah County will operate nine student health centers in five school districts.
A $2.3 million state lottery capital grant is funding the construction, and Multnomah County is providing staff, equipment, and supplies.
"Student Health Centers bring critical, health care services to children and adolescents in the school system,” says Tasha Wheatt-Delancy, interim director of Multnomah County’s Integrated Clinical Services, which oversees the county’s 23 health centers, including Student Health Centers in Centennial, David Douglas, Parkrose and Portland Public school districts. “This is an amazing opportunity to offer equitable healthcare access for youth in the Reynold's school district."
The 11th largest school district in the state of Oregon, Reynolds serves a culturally diverse population of 11,000 students in 16 public and three charter schools with over 100 languages and dialects represented. The total minority enrollment at Reynolds High School, Troutdale, is 64 percent, while 50 percent of students are economically disadvantaged, according to US News Best High School Rankings.
“For many of our students, the lack of access to quality healthcare can impact attendance and the ability to learn in the classroom,” says Dr. Danna Diaz, superintendent of schools for Reynolds School District. “We are thrilled to partner with Multnomah County to bring a Student Health Center to Reynolds High School to reduce the barriers of accessing quality healthcare for our students and provide greater opportunities for success in the classroom.”
Construction of the center culminates an ambitious years-long effort by county officials, Reynolds School District administrators, parents and students and community and health partners to substantiate the area’s unmet medical need and bring the area a Student Health Center. The effort included comprehensive needs assessment and surveys, impassioned public testimonies at the State Capital and requests of the County Board to fund the community planning a process. Led by Oregon School Based Health Alliance, the process included formation of a local steering committee to study the center’s location in the community and determine the services it would provide .
Multnomah County has been delivering convenient, high quality, no-out-of-pocket-cost health services at schools like Reynolds for over 30 years, says Student Health Center Program Manager Alexandra Lowell. “Over the decades the Student Health Center model has been fine-tuned to best focus on youth who otherwise wouldn’t have access to health services,” she says. “Our mission is to keep kids healthy so they can focus on success in school and beyond.”
Luis says he likely will be first in line with the new center opens at Reynolds.
“Having a health center here, the convenience, is going to be a big deal,” he says. “It’s really going to make a difference.”
The Multnomah County Community Health Center program more broadly is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration of the US Department of Health and Human Services as part of an award totaling $9,642,194 with 93.5 percent financed with non-HRSA sources. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by HRSA, HHS, or the US Government. For more information, please visit HRSA.gov.