Over the 2022-2023 school year, the ICHS Highland Health Center partnered with Interlake High School administrators to routinely bring health services right to the school.
Interlake High School is in Bellevue, a city perceived as affluent. However, many Eastside students lack sufficient access to health care. The Highland Health Center is the only school-based health center on the Eastside of King County.
While the ICHS School Services team had previously used the Mobile Dental Clinic as a base of operations for vaccination clinics, this is the first year it has been at Interlake. The school is close to two ICHS service locations: Highland Health Center and Bellevue Medical & Dental Clinic.
They had been providing ad hoc services to Interlake students for years, but in 2022, they decided to bring the mobile clinic services directly to Interlake to provide medical services to students who otherwise would have faced transportation, insurance, financial, or other barriers to receiving much-needed care.
“There are students who are experiencing systemic barriers everywhere,” said Janni Sun, ICHS School Services administrator. “Oftentimes, in areas like Bellevue, underserved students are left behind because of this misconception that they have [health services] allocated to serve them. We were so glad we were able to connect with Interlake.”
Sybil Singh, the Interlake High School nurse, informed the ICHS School Services team about the urgent need for vaccines and other student health services at the school. Without her intervention, the program would not have been able to identify the demand.
Sun says the Highland Health Center doesn’t have a list of all the students in the district who are missing vaccinations or experiencing economic difficulties. However, schools do, so having that collaboration with the school nurse and administration at Interlake is really what has made their mobile clinic so successful.
“There are a lot of schools and districts that don’t have school-based health services,” Sun said. “It’s very expensive to run a school-based health center, especially when the services are at no cost to students or their families.
“That’s why we really need the support of funds,” Sun continued. “For instance, we have applied for funding that we will hear back about in August. That grant would allow us to serve another high school in Bellevue with mobile services, so we can be flexible according to the community’s demand.”
From January through May 2022, the mobile clinic at Interlake provided care to 45 students 79 different times. ICHS administered a total of 252 vaccines at Interlake, 207 of which were school required (MMR, varicella, tetanus, hepatitis B, and polio vaccines) as well as other routine vaccines such as HPV and meningococcal. This work was supported by a grant from Coordinated Care. They were also able to use this opportunity to see a number of students who needed additional services, such as sports physicals and routine medical visits.
Sun says that in addition to funding, the most important thing people can do to get the ICHS mobile clinic at their schools is to look to their nurses and administrators. The ICHS School Services team cannot do their work without help from these nurses and administrators, as they are positioned to identify demand in their schools first. While partnering with local schools creates a ripple effect among the community, the ICHS School Services team has to get to the schools first.
“Helping students is helping whole families,” Sun explained. “Schools are a one-stop shop to support families with all kinds of resources, for families to be able to understand what choices they have, what their options are, and how to prioritize healthy choices to make them healthy long into the future. And by keeping a lens on equity and making sure we’re serving the students who experience the most barriers, we can really make an impact to balance the scales in an area that is as disparate as Bellevue.”