Community Fellow Madeleine Duncan ‘19 Organizes Beneficial Partnerships to Ensure the Prosperity of The Health Center in Walla Walla, WA

Integrated school based healthcare. It’s a mouthful, but it’s the model I work with under The Health Center. This model means it is physically in or near the schools and has certified counselors who can work with parents, teachers and students to provide comprehensive care to students in need. The Health Center has four clinics in different schools from 1 elementary, 1middle, and 2 high schools. With care coordinators, registered nurses, professional counselors and a roving doctor in each. It’s a grassroots organization that was founded on the premise of filling gaps in community healthcare. The four clinics work under one umbrella administration, but have adjusted to best fit their respective sub-communities. So where do I, Madeleine Duncan, a senior Biochemistry, Biophysics and Molecular Biology major, fit in?

Olivia, a counselor working at Blue Ridge Elementary, shows off one of her tools to help students talk about their feelings.

As the Whitman Community Health Fellow, I am investigating potential partnerships with The Health Center and third party organizations. How does that relate to school based health centers? It doesn’t, but my position allows The Health Center to continue to function and continue their care without concern of funding or facility management. My role is not to restructure or give a product to my organization, but to observe, communicate, evaluate and present potential avenues of prosperity for the organizations. Part of that is constantly being in contact with clinics to make sure they have everything they need to help students. A typical meeting might go like this…

Tuesday, November 27 around 12:15 PM: “We’ve selected the We Thinkers program to compliment the Zones of Regulation program adopted school wide. Which means we go into 2nd and 3rd grade classrooms to piggyback off their zones training and help kids understand emotional regulation better.” Anali, a registered counselor, describes as she sits across a slightly too small table in Blue Ridge Elementary. There are crayons clustered on the table as well as manila folders ready for students to make their safe spot for them to help visualize what makes them happy to provide them with an emotional stabilization tool. “We do more than just service students, we often times work in triangulation with the student, the teacher and their parents to give the student the best comprehensive care they can.” Each school clinic has its own challenges a mode of integration with the school, working with elementary aged children compared with high school young adults has very different characteristics and challenges.

I visited every clinic and held clinic discussions on their needs, strengths and identity. From there I will look into local, state and national resources to best serve and fit the organization without compromising the feel of the clinics and the vital service they provide. It means a lot of emailing and meeting with both Health Center employees and potential partners. As well as brainstorming and coming up with new and untapped resources for the organization to use.

Tim, a social worker at the Lincoln High School branch of the Health Center, in a counseling session.

During my time at The Health Center, I have gotten to “see behind the curtain,” on how organizations run and all the decisions that occur to make it run. To allow Tim, the social worker at Lincoln High, the flexibility to leave the clinic to help a student in class, meet on the street, or help find a place to sleep. Organizations like The Health Center rely on generous volunteers and an incredible administration to run.

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