MANSFIELD -- Students and families of Malabar Intermediate School now have a way of finding the help they may need outside the classroom — just down the hall.
The school district is taking an aggressive, holistic approach in helping families with a new school-based health care clinic.
"We're here to help kids," said Tom Hager, principal at Malabar Intermediate School. "It's really simple. We're here to help them with academic performance and with health."
A press conference to announce the Malabar Care Connect health clinic took place on Tuesday afternoon. The clinic is located down the hall from Malabar's administrative offices. It will feature two community health care workers provided by Third Street Family Services.
"The goal is to get the families what they need and to connect the physical and mental needs as well. By doing that, we'll see the grades come up; we'll see the families working more with us and that that will help us as a community," said Laura Walker, a community health care worker.
The Care to Connect health clinic is funded by a $600,000 four-year state School Quality Improvement Grant. Medical care and home visits by the health care workers will be provided by Third Street Health Family Services in Mansfield.
Initially, a nurse practitioner from Third Street Health will be at the school twice a week, Hager said.
Hager promised the crowd at the grand opening event the clinic will surpass the four years promised by the grant.
A core team will identify students who, they believe, would benefit from clinical care as well as home visits by community health care workers. The mission of the care workers is to conduct needs assessments and direct families to available assistance for food, housing, utilities, medical care, transportation, and other necessities as needed.
"We can no longer look only inside the classroom for academic improvement," Hager said. "That's why we're doing this. We have to look at what's going on outside the classroom. Improve their health, and improve their academic performance."
Parental consent will be required for both clinic and home visits.
"Every family may need help sometime," said Shanice Brooks, a community health care worker. "We want everyone to be successful here in school and when they are at home. If we can help that home life to make their school life better, that's what we're here to do."
Brooks said helping families find support with clothing or utilities is free for families. There will be a sliding scale for medical costs based on the family income and can be billed to insurance or Medicare.
"There are a lot of organizations here that can help with that," Brooks said. "There are food banks, clothing closets, places that help pay utilities. People shouldn't be afraid to ask for help because we all need help sometimes."
Brooks added that while the medical clinic is inside Malabar, there are community care workers for each building in the district to help aid students and families.
The school nurse will continue to serve the general school population.
Superintendent Stan Jefferson said he was proud of the new clinic being a part of the district.
"It's tremendous," he said. "We are now able to provide medical care and help their educational care. We are able to offer a number of regular medical services.
"This Malabar Care Connect will open up a new channel for our students and our students families."