Walla Walla schools' health centers land grant

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WALLA WALLA — Students will benefit from a recent grant by the Washington Women’s Foundation to The Health Center here.

The center independently provides a number of services to students at Lincoln High and Blue Ridge Elementary schools, including primary, dental and mental health care, help in accessing community services, psychiatric treatment and finding sources of emergency shelter.

The Health Center was one of five nonprofit organizations in the state — and the only one in Eastern Washington — to receive a $100,000 grant from the foundation.

The Health Center will use the grant over a three year span to keep current clinic coordinator positions in place at both school-based offices.

The award is recognition of The Health Center and the community, said Holly Howard, executive director. Clinic coordinators are the backbone of the center, and liaisons for a long list of social service, education, health care and other partners that work with center staff to get kids help, she said.

The grant helps make up for funding that did not materialize, a pinch many nonprofits have felt in recent years. Even $100,000, however, does not solve the Health Center’s need to get sustainable and adequate funding in place, she added.

Howard said she feels the grant was awarded by the Washington Women’s Foundation based on the ability of the Walla Walla community to support the mission of The Health Center, which was started in 2009 to serve Lincoln High School students, many of whom are dependant on the state to pay for health care.

That dumps kids into the Walla Walla County system for mental health care, into programs already trying to meet a huge demand without enough resources, she noted.

“I would say most of the kids who come down from Lincoln have some sort of need for mental health counseling,” Howard said. “They may first present a physical ailment, then become more open and receptive to talking about something else.”

That’s when the clinic coordinator can start plugging a student in to various places in Walla Walla to help meet specific needs. And the need continues to grow, Howard said.

Those professionals nurture kids and foster trust in The Health Center, she told members of the granting foundation.

“Students experience the coordinator as being there for them with the listening and tough love needed to help them succeed and make good choices,” she said.

The Walla Walla organization is the only independently operated school-based health center in Washington state, and was the only such facility chosen for the monetary award out of 340 applicants.

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