Family Nurse Practitioner Rachel Hickman at the Avon School-Based Health Center at Avon Elementary School.

By Jenny Lang, Director of School Based Health & Site Medical Director for Glenwood Springs & Edwards Health Centers, and Rachel Hickman, FNP.

February is National School-Based Health Care Awareness Month and Mountain Family Health Centers is excited to continue offering medical, dental, and behavioral health care at Avon Elementary School for all Eagle County Schools students.

Jennifer “Jenny” Lang
FNP; Glenwood Springs Site Medical Director; Edwards Site Medical Director; Director of School Based Health; Director of Title X Programs; Provider Leadership Committee Chair; Farmacy Director

Family Nurse Practitioner Rachel Hickman sees patients at the Avon School-Based Health Center and says being able to provide care for kids at school makes it much easier to provide treatment. Hickman often sees students during a class period that is convenient for students.

“It causes less disruption during the school day and for the family,” says Hickman, since parents don’t always have to be present during an appointment. And being able to partner with teachers and administrators can sometimes help pinpoint what a student needs, when that assistance is appropriate. Like adjusting a child’s ADHD medication schedule or addressing a toothache that’s keeping a student from focusing in class.”

Family Nurse Practitioner Jenny Lang oversees the Avon School-Based Health Center as Mountain Family’s Director of School Based Health.

“What makes school-based health care so great is that Mountain Family Health Centers is serving children in a place that children are already comfortable with,” says Lang. “There are fewer barriers to care because students feel more comfortable with the provider and receive services more easily because this is their place, being at school.”

School-based dental services were established at our Avon School-Based Health Center and other locations as part of the statewide SMILES Dental Project, with support from the Caring for Colorado Foundation. (Our latest Mariposa Award winner sees dental patients at the Avon School-Based Health Center.) Mountain Family Health Centers also provides school-based dental services to students at Bea Elementary School and the Grand Valley Family Learning Center in Parachute.

Family Nurse Practitioner Rachel Hickman at the Avon School-Based Health Center at Avon Elementary School.

Our Avon School-Based Health Center opened in 2016 and tracking shows a steady increase in students receiving care on site. As of mid-2017, 792 users had seen a Mountain Family Health Centers provider at our Avon Elementary School location. Recent data show that a year later, in mid-2018, 953 users had received care. That’s an increase of 161 users in one year.

The School-Based Health Alliance highlights health care in schools each February to “recognize our success and raise awareness about how school-based health centers (SBHCs) are transforming health care delivery across the country.” The theme for 2019 is “Healing Super Heroes Every School Day.” In a nutshell, the Alliance argues it’s important to offer services in school because “all children and adolescents deserve to thrive and grow into the super heroes we know they can be. But too many struggle because they lack access to health care services. School-based health care is the solution, bringing health care to where students already spend the majority of their time: in school. When health and education come together, great things happen—and our young super heroes are healed.”

In Eagle County, even though the number of students receiving care at the Avon School-Based Health Center has increased, Lang and Hickman say they’re working to address a perception that Mountain Family only serves low-income children at Avon Elementary School. Both want the community to know the Mountain Family location at Avon Elementary is to serve all children in Eagle County Schools.

Wall art at our Edwards health center celebrating National School-Based Health Care Awareness Month.

“It’s important that the community knows it’s not just a school clinic for low-income children,” says Hickman. “The clinic strives to serve all children—and it’s not just for the students.”

“It’s a hard balance,” says Lang, “because it takes time being in classrooms to educate students about the services we offer, and but it’s also important to have enough time to see patients.”

Mountain Family hopes to be more present throughout the Eagle Valley school district, so that students and parents know about the opportunity for medical, dental, and behavioral health care available to all students our at Avon Elementary School clinic. It’s possible another part of Mountain Family’s services for the Eagle County community will help reach the wider community. Mountain Family Health Centers is working with the nonprofit Red Ribbon Project of Eagle County to educate students and families about preventing teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), providing self-care, and related topics.