GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Back when the pandemic hit in March 2020, Grand Rapids Public Schools closed all of its buildings, which included all three of their health centers.
Now, after 19 months, the centers are scheduled to reopen on Monday, Oct. 4.
“We partner with Cherry Health to provide medical and behavioral health services here at Union High School. We also have similar clinics at Innovation Central and at Ottawa Hills High Schools,” said Kim Baron, director of health services with GRPS. “Students can also have access to an on-site therapist so they can do individual and group therapy.”
Each of the centers are located inside the buildings and mirror real health clinics. The one at Union High School, which FOX 17 toured on Tuesday afternoon, had a waiting room, a few exam rooms and a dental office.
“We try to eliminate all barriers: transportation, insurance, inability to pay. None of the reasons would be reasons why students couldn’t access the services here,” says @GRPublicSchools 👩🏻⚕️— Lauren Edwards (@LaurenEdwardsTV) September 28, 2021
GRPS to reopen health centers on 10/4 after closing due to pandemic. // @FOX17 pic.twitter.com/1ZvJ5m5KYP
“The students can make an appointment for maybe a class period that might be a little bit easier for them to miss. We try to avoid some of the primary subjects. But, if it's a class they can leave the class for, come to an appointment and then go back to their next hour, it eliminates travel time, or parents don’t have to leave work in order to get their kids in for a visit,” Baron said. “We do require parent consent but that’s easy to obtain.”
Baron said that the clinics are open to students ages 10–21 and they do not have to be students enrolled at the school where the health center is located. It’s open to all GRPS students and their siblings.
She said any student that has a need will be seen as long as they have parental consent.
"Cherry Health, I know they do work with insurance companies but that is never going to be a barrier for students accessing care," Baron said. "We try to eliminate all the barriers, transportation, insurance, [and] inability to pay. None of the reasons would be reasons why students couldn’t access the services here."
Baron added that soon health officials will be able to help students slow the spread of COVID-19 when they come in for a visit.
“That’s a big need. We are hearing from families that it is hard to find testing. Then when they do get testing, the turnaround time for results is slow,” she said. “We’ll have COVID testing here that students will be able to access. Once the clinics are up and running and we get enough vaccine supply, we’ll also be able to offer the COVID-19 vaccine as well.”