Augusta High School receives grant to provide preventive healthcare, expand access to behavioral care

Cony Middle and High School Principal Kim Silsby on Thursday stands in an office that is now used for storage, but is scheduled to eventually be used by a doctor when a doctor is added to the medical suite staff at the school in Augusta. Augusta high school recently received a grant from the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention to build a more robust school-based health center that will bring doctors and physician assistants to school. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Diary

AUGUST — Cony High students will soon be able to receive vaccinations, preventive health services, and vision tests while in school.

Augusta high school recently received a grant from the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention to build a more robust school-based health center that will bring doctors, physician assistants, or nurse practitioners to school 15 hours a week. the length of time that licensed behavioral health professionals are available to students.

Signs showing a wellness suite in the dining area appear Thursday at Cony Middle and High School in Augusta. Augusta high school recently received a grant from the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention to build a more robust school-based health center that will bring doctors and physician assistants to school. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Diary

The $56,000 grant will cover procurement costs for medical providers from MaineGeneral Health and increase Kennebec Behavioral Health’s hours of service. 30 hours a week for one year. It will expand the scope of care currently offered by school nurses.

Principal Kim Silsby said she has applied for funding to help reduce barriers to access to preventive and acute care that parents reported, including a lack of transportation and health insurance.

“Our families are busy and can’t always take their students to healthcare facilities,” Silsby told the Kennebec Journal. “This will help them get the support they need.”

Families will not be charged if their students are cared for at the school health centre, and students do not need health insurance to be seen – but they will need a parent or guardian’s permission.

“This is exactly what we hoped for when dealing with the social and emotional issues with the resources in the building,” Superintendent James Anastasio said when announcing the grant to the Augusta Board of Education last Wednesday. “Having more services is important, and getting that commitment from MaineGeneral and Kennebec Behavior Health on the social and emotional side is extraordinary.”

As part of their behavioral health offerings, students may receive referral for group or individual counselling, mental health screening, or additional needs.

One of the cots in the medical room is seen Thursday at Cony Middle and High School in Augusta. Augusta high school recently received a grant from the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention to build a more robust school-based health center that will bring doctors and physician assistants to school. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Diary

Silsby described behavioral and medical care and attention as “essential to student learning and success.”

The medical room at Cony Middle and High School in Augusta. The first two doors are currently used by nurses, while the last door is planned to be used by a doctor or physician assistant when they are added to staff. Augusta high school recently received a grant from the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention to build a more robust school-based health center that will bring doctors and physician assistants to school. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Diary

“In an area that should not be underserved, our students do not have access to these essential services,” Silsby said in the grant. “Having a School Based Health Center will level the field for our students. There are many barriers to learning for many of our students.”

Maine has the highest rate of uninsured people in New England, with 5.7% of its residents lacking health insurance. In Cony, nearly 40% of students met the 2021 free and reduced-meal federal guidelines, meaning their families had household incomes between 130% and 185% federal poverty guidelines. Forty-two students in the high school self-identify as homeless.

Silsby said it was unclear when the services would be implemented at the school, but said Cony would “start as soon as possible” to get providers into the building. They will be installed in the existing health suite.

Students will be able to visit the clinic may be referred to community partners such as MaineGeneral after school, during school breaks and holidays, or if required services are not available at school.

Cony is the 18th school in Maine to receive funding from the CDC’s “School-Based Health Center Services” grant program for more than 20 years, according to the agency’s spokesperson, Robert Long. Other schools receiving grants are Readfield-based Regional School Unit 38, Deering and Portland high schools, King Middle School, among other districts.


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