SBHCs Offer Barrier-Free Access to Health Care for Students in CT

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Emanuela P. Leaf

As junior at Danbury High School, I remember feeling a lot of pain in my wrist, and being unable to take notes. I didn’t mention it at home, didn’t want to worry my parents who had multiple jobs and did not have health insurance, and I muddled through. One day, one of my teachers noticed that I was having a hard time writing. I told her about my symptoms and how it would be a hassle to get my parents to miss work over it.

She told me I should make an appointment to visit the School Based Health Center. And to this day, I am so thankful I did. After taking a permission slip home, I was seen by a licensed nurse practitioner, diagnosed with early carpal tunnel syndrome and given a brace and a referral to a hand doctor. All this occurred during school hours; I did not miss school, my parents did not miss work and we did not have a huge medical bill just to find out what was wrong. It was a win, win situation.

School Based Health Centers (SBHCs) are a model that works. The Centers integrate primary medical care with behavioral health services and in some cases, dental services. SBHCs are located within or on school grounds and serve students in grades Pre K – 12. Services are provided by licensed nurse practitioners, physicians’ assistants, social workers, physicians, dental hygienists and dentists.

SBHC staff are a resource for the school and the community, providing programs on wellness, disease prevention, health promotion and health management.

There are currently 88 state-funded Centers in 22 Connecticut communities. More than 40,000 students use SBHCs annually in over 131,000 visits.

SBHCs offer barrier-free access to health care for medical and mental health, and dental needs. Their services include:

  • Individual, group and family therapy
  • Risk assessment and health education
  • Referral for medication evaluations and specialty care
  • Support groups for anger management, substance abuse, bereavement, parental illness, asthma and eating/weight issues
  • Diagnosis/treatment of minor illnesses and injuries, including prescriptions
  • Management/treatment of chronic diseases

“School based health centers keep students healthy and in school so they can achieve their fullest potential and grow to become healthy, productive adults. When young people have the opportunity to get the medical and mental health treatment they need right in school, absenteeism goes down and graduation rates go up. Schools and communities are stronger when they have healthy youth,” said Jesse White-Fresé, executive director of the CT Association of School Based Health Centers.

A recent study showed a significant increase in attendance for (adolescent) SBHC medical users compared to nonusers. Grade point average increases over time were observed for mental health users compared to nonusers. When students use the SBHCs, more than 90 percent return to class after their visit.

According to White-Fresé, “Children bring all of their issues to school,” whether it is asthma, tooth pain, domestic violence, illnesses and injuries, learning disabilities, peer conflict, diagnosed and undiagnosed mental health conditions, homelessness and many more issues. SBHCs can help students and families.

How You Can Help

A contribution to the Connecticut Association of School Based Health Centers or your local School Based Health Centers will help school-based health centers in Connecticut order infection control supplies in case of an emergency, educate legislators about why school-based health centers are important and support the medical, dental and mental health professionals that serve our communities every school day. For more information, visit the Connecticut Association of School Based Health Centers at or call 203 – 230 – 9976.

School Based Health Center Locations:


Danbury High School

Broadview Middle School

Rogers Park Middle School


Warren Harding High School

JFK Campus

Columbus School

Dunbar School

Luis Munoz Marin

Central High School

Bassick High School

Blackham School

Roosevelt School

Read School


Driggs Elementary School

Michael F Wallace Middle School
Crosby High School

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