King County Executive Dow Constantine on Friday, Mar. 31, 2023 announced the opening of a new school-based health center at Highline High School in Burien.
The center will be operated by HealthPoint and is funded by the voter-approved Best Starts for Kids Levy as part of a network of school-based health centers (SBHCs) overseen by Public Health—Seattle & King County.
“We know a young person’s motivation and ability to learn is directly linked to their overall health, and that is why it’s essential to work in partnership to provide them access to the health care they need,” Constantine said. “School-based health centers are a proven model – offering critical resources and ensuring that we support not only the health of young people but also set them up for long-term success in their education.”
Best Starts for Kids is investing more than $3 million annually in SBHCs around the region, along with investments from the City of Seattle Families, Education, Preschool and Promise Levy, expanding to a total of 36 clinics since first launching at Rainer Beach High School in Seattle in 1989. SBHCs are open to all students and are designed to offer supports to those with the highest needs. They provide integrated and coordinated primary medical care, mental health care, and oral health services. Highline High School has a diverse student body with 85 percent students of color and 33 percent of the students being English Language Learners.
“Having access to doctors and health care providers in a school-based clinic means students can get sports physicals, and help navigating the process, without having to leave school,” said Lori Box, athletic director at Highline High School. “More students were able to participate in spring sports from the first day of practice, thanks to our HealthPoint clinic at Highline High School.”
SBHCs connect students to care that may be difficult to find in their communities and are a proven strategy that offers comprehensive health services including immunizations, family planning, and mental health counseling within a school setting.
“We are delighted that HealthPoint Highline School-Based Health Center is now open and provides medical and behavioral health care to Highline students,” said Katherine L. Gudgel, MS, Director of Community Programs, at HealthPoint Admin. “We continue to partner with King County Sexual Assault Resource Center to raise awareness of school-based services with a particular focus on supporting Latinx students, who make up about fifty percent of the student body. The staff at Highline have proven to be very welcoming partners who are fierce advocates of their students’ wellbeing, and we share their passion for student health.”
SBHCs serve to promote students’ health and educational success. The use of SBHCs is significantly associated with improvements in GPA and attendance and acts as a direct line to mental health services. Young people are 21 times more likely to access mental health services at SBHCs than at community clinics.
“I’m confident that this new school-based health center will make lives better for students at Highline High School, because of the proven track record that we have with creating these clinics on school campuses,” said Dr. Faisal Khan, Director of Public Health — Seattle & King County. “Not only will the students have reliable, direct access to a full spectrum of basic health care, but they also get long-term benefits. School-based health centers are shown to improve educational outcomes and young people’s overall well-being.”
Earlier this month King County announced a partnership with Ballmer Group that will fund mental health expansions in SBHCs across King County. These partnerships with school districts, community groups, and SBHCs will help achieve King County’s goal to build equitable supports for young people, so they can access the resources they need, and further their education.
The new Highline High School SBHC is now open and fully operational for students to access services.