Clarke County officials open school health center

Having a sick child is difficult on many levels.

Seeing children suffer is saddening and can require a parent to miss work to care for them. Then there is also time missed at school and potentially expensive doctor visits.

For Emmika Walton, these issues were a reality multiple times per week.

Waltons’ 12-year-old daughter, Makiyah, suffers from somewhat-controlled asthma. Hilsman Middle School called Emmika Walton frequently to let her know her daughter needed to go to the emergency room or the Athens Neighborhood Health Center for treatment that the school nurse could not provide.

Yesterday, Makiyah Walton helped cut the ribbon for the Hilsman Health Center, the first at-school health center in Athens-Clarke County.

“Now that the Hilsman Health Center opened up at my school, I don’t have to miss any more days of school or be checked out of school anymore because I can just walk to the Hilsman Health Center and they can take it from there,” said Makiyah. “This helps me and my mom because I don’t have to miss classes anymore and she doesn’t have to pick me up from school anymore and that makes me happy.”

Hilsman Health Center will offer physical, dental and behavioral healthcare to students at Hilsman Middle School and Gaines Elementary School regardless of their ability to pay. Children will also be able to get their prescriptions at school and receive more immediate treatment for illnesses or injuries as they become a problem. The health center will also provide check-ups, flu shots, and other preventative care measures.

“Hopefully with this particular initiative, we will be able to reduce some of the absenteeism. The child will have early intervention and we can take care of those particular illnesses and reduce those days of missing school,” said Marcus Garner, the CEO of Athens Neighborhood Health Center, which is one of the Hilsman Health Center’s partners.

Emory University’s PARTNERS for Equity in Child and Adolescent Health program awarded a grant that got the project off the ground, but it took a lot of additional help to make the dream a reality. United Way of Northeast Georgia fostered a relationship between The Piedmont Athens Regional Foundation and the Clarke County School District, which led to a $300,000 donation from the foundation. Advantage Behavioral Health also partnered with the Hilsman Health Center to provide mental healthcare.

“My heart is singing,” said Dawn Meyers, the chief of policy for Clarke County School District. “I could not be more proud today of the work of our community to make this dream a reality. When I first saw it, I thought, ‘This is beautiful.’ And then, my second thought was, ‘This is what our children deserve.’”


By Caitlin O’Donnell / Correspondent / Athens Banner-Herald
Posted Oct 23, 2019

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