School-Based Health Center at 

Central High School

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is a school-based health center (SBHC) or student health center?

A school-based health center (SBHC) or student health center brings the healthcare provider into a school so students can avoid health related absences and receive the support they need to succeed in the classroom.  For over 25 years, across the US, SBHCs are staffed by multi-disciplinary teams of medical and mental health professionals.  This approach is known to improve overall health and educational outcomes.

Why now?

We have been working on the development of a school-based health center since 2017! The efforts started with interested stakeholders in the Fall of 2017 with the first Advisory Council Meeting in December 2017. The committee has been meeting monthly since December 2017.  Students, parents and staff that participated in surveys, identified mental health as their main health concern; in addition, suicide rates, substance use and teen pregnancy rates are high in Mesa County.

Suicide rates are high in Mesa County. There are many current efforts focused on depression and suicide prevention; in addition there is attention to the impact of opioids and other types of substance abuse. Providing a convenient and welcoming setting is the key to prevention, early identification and effective behavioral health treatment for youth.

Why Central High School?

A 2015 Needs Assessment completed by Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment and Colorado Health Institute identified school district and individual schools that would benefit most from the addition of a SBHC.  In Mesa County, Central, Grand Junction, and Palisade high schools were prioritized.  Additional factors were identified, namely the percentage of students on free and reduced lunch at Central, and that there are no primary care services in the Clifton/Fruitvale area.  In late 2018, a formal needs assessment was conducted by the Colorado Association of School Based Health Care (CASBHC), which included community input from students, parents, educators, principals, school support staff, and local non-profit leaders.  Outreach was conducted through bilingual surveys and focus groups.  As a result, under the guidance of the inter-agency SBHC Community Advisory Council, Central High School was selected as the site for the SBHC.

Do parents favor SBHCs?

Yes. Parents appreciate SBHCs because:

Who is served?

Central High School Students & Staff only at this time.

Does the student need parental permission to receive services?

Yes and no.  The student health center will require the parent or legal guardian to sign a consent form before their minor child can receive services in the center.  Because the student health center will take the approach that the clinic staff, parents, and child should work together to resolve health problems, the staff will promote strong family communication and make every effort to involve parents.  The exception to parental permission are addressed in:

Does the parent need to be present for the student to receive services?

As long as the parent or legal guardian has signed a consent form or has given verbal consent (and witnessed), he/she does not need to be present for the student to receive services.

Will parents be notified when their child receives services?

Parents will be given as much information as possible under the law.  The only exception is a life-threatening situation.

What does it cost?

There is no cost to the school.

There is a nominal charge to the patient or their family for services offered in the health center.   Insurance may be billed but without cost to families.  No student will be refused services based on the students ability to pay.  Hardship funds are available to help students or families with copays. Families will be assisted with screening and enrollment for Medicaid or CHP+ if applicable.

Do SBHCs take money away from classrooms?

No. SBHCs get their funding from many different sources. D51 will provide in-kind support such as space, utilities, and custodial services only.  D51 recognizes that student achievement can be increased if students are physically and mentally healthy.

How is the School Based Health Center Funded?

The Colorado Department of Health and Environment (CDPHE) supported the planning of the School-Based Health Center at Central High School.  A grant from The Colorado Health Foundation funded the capital and operational start up costs. 

There are nearly 70 Colorado SBHCs.  SBHCs are funded through a mix of sources including: state, and local government dollars, private grants, and donations, insurance billing, and in-kind support.  In 2018, Western Colorado Community Foundation and many of the agencies on the Advisory Council provided funding for the planning and needs assessment. The Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment awarded a planning grant in March 2019 for continued work.  In October 2019, The Colorado Health Foundation awarded funding to completely renovate an area at Central High School and provide operation support for the first year.  The SBHC will receive in-kind support from SD51 for the space, utilities, and custodial services. An anual grant award for general operations comes from CDPHE. Patient revenue, donations and grants fund SBHC.

Shouldn't the school district just focus on education?

Studies have found direct links between SBHC use and learning readiness.  Schools cannot do their job of educating if students are not in school or are unable to concentrate because of pain or other health problems.  Research shows that students who use SBHCs are less likely to be absent or tardy and more likely to graduate or be promoted than nonusers.

Will the SBHC eliminate the need for the school nurses and school counselors?

No.  SBHCs work with community clinics to coordinate care.  They complement services already being provided by placing additional resources in the schools.  School nurses and counselors are vitally important for comprehensive health care for students through referrals, warm handoffs, and collaborating.

Will the SBHC take patients away from local providers?

No. SBHCs collaborate, assist with care coordination, and make referrals back to established primary care providers.  SBHCs link to other healthcare and/or mental health resources.  SHBCs are a critical entry point for students who may not otherwise be able or willing to seek help outside the school.

Will the health care providers at the SBHC be qualified?

Yes. All providers are licensed independent practitioners, i.e. Nurse Practitioner, Physician Assistant, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Registered Dental Hygienist, and the services they provide will be limited to their scope of practice.

Who Represented the Community Planning Committee?

Central High School (representing Administration, Counseling, Special Education, Nursing, Parent, Students); School District 51 (representing Administration, Student Services, Wellness, Nursing, Facilities); MarillacHealth; DPA Architectural Group; Dr. Amy Davis, local physician and school board member; Dr. Michael Whistler, pediatrician with Western Colorado Pediatric Associates; Dr. Raul De Villegas-Decker, Psychologist; Community Hospital; St. Mary's Hospital; Hilltop Community Resources; Mesa County Public Health Department; MindSprings; and Colorado Associates for School-Based Health Care.


December 2017:  The Advisory Council Meeting began in December 2017 and grew to include more organizations interested in a School-Based Health Center.  

March 6, 2018:  Initial presentation was to the School Board; approved for further study

Fall 2018: presented the results of the Needs Assessment Report to the School Board. 

All of 2018:  Community surveys, Key Informant Interviews, Visits to SBHCs; Central High School selected

January 22, 2019:  Second School Board presentation; board passed a Resolution of Support.

All of 2019:  SBHC Advisory Council expedite site planning, operational model/budget, and capital funding. Involve students in design, naming the clinic, promotions

September 2019:  Grant funds awarded by the Colorado Health Foundation

November 2019-March 2020:  Renovation of 1046 square feet; furnish clinic; recruit providers

Spring 2020:  Registration of students, faculty and related personnel planning to access SBHC

March 2020:  Anticipated Opening of SBHC

August 17, 2020: OPENED!