-  New health care center opens at Centennial High School

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Multnomah County Commission Chairwoman Marissa Madrigal (center) officially cut the ribbon to formally open the center, assisted by commissioners Diane McKeel (left) and Loretta Smith (right). Also present were Centennial High School Principal Kevin Ricker (far left) and Sam Breyer, district superintendent.

Centennial High School’s choir ensemble the C-Notes chose a fitting piece of music to celebrate a ribbon cutting — “Let’s Get it Started.”

And indeed they did.

Under sunny skies Thursday, May 22, CHS students, district administrators and Multnomah County officials toasted their collaborative achievement with the formal opening of the first school-based health center east of Northeast 181st Avenue in East County.

The ribbon cutting marked the completion of a more than two-year process in design, public and student input and construction to make CHS the 13th school in Multnomah County with a student health center on campus.

“This has been a long time coming for us and the community,” said Sam Breyer, superintendent for the Centennial School District. “There were a lot of people involved in this, and it means a lot to have this service available to our students and the community.”

What was once the woodshop at Centennial High School now resembles a compact doctor’s office. Half a dozen individual exams rooms have eaten up the former cavernous space, with walls now bathed in soothing colors, where students can be seen privately by medical professionals. The clinic will provide comprehensive preventive and primary health care, as well as mental health services for all children ages 5 to 18.

And for the first time, students will have access to dental care with an on-site dental hygienist.

“I’m so excited you have a dental chair!” quipped Multnomah County Commissioner Diane McKeel, a retired dental hygienist herself. “The clinic is a wonderful amenity for the kids and for all of us. Having it in the school makes health and dental care accessible, so this is really exciting.” by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Multnomah County Commissioners (second and third from left) Diane McKeel a,nd Loretta Smith took a peek at the dental suite at the new school-based health center that opened Thursday, May 22, in Centennial High School. The school is the first in outer East County to host a health center on campus and the 13th facility in Multnomah County to offer preventive and primary health care, along with mental health services, to children ages 5 to 18.

Multnomah County operates 12 school-based health centers across the metro area, but until now, the closest center to East County kids has been at Parkrose High School in Northeast Portland.

Clinical studies have shown that the biggest obstacles children face in the course of their education is their physical and mental health. School-based health centers have demonstrated that student absenteeism decreases if kids have access to health care on campus. Furthermore, adolescents are 10 to 20 times more likely to take advantage of mental health assistance at school as opposed to a clinic across town.

“Multnomah County’s goal is to keep kids healthy and to graduate from high school,” said Marissa Madrigal, chairwoman of the Multnomah County Commission. “We know from schools that have health centers, there are fewer absences. Kids are more likely to seek medical and mental health care services if they’re down the hall. We’re all proud of the changes these school-based health centers make in the lives of students.”

Centennial Student Body President Jacque Nelson echoed Madrigal’s remarks to guests at the ribbon cutting, saying the center’s presence will help students remain in the classroom, learning.

“We are a school who wants to make a difference,” Nelson said. “One thing holding us back is our health. Every day, students are asked to give their best, but they are unable to because they are ill. With this health center, we can make that difference.”

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - The center is in an area formerly home to the high schools woodshop. It features individual exam rooms and a dental suite, with medical staffing that includes a family nurse practitioner, licensed mental health counselor, a registered nurse and licensed practical nurse and dental hygienist. Funding for the health center was acquired through a $500,000 Affordable Care Act grant, with another $60,000 grant for the dental suite from the state. Medical staffing at the center is provided by Multnomah County and includes a family nurse practitioner, licensed mental health counselor, a registered nurse and licensed practical nurse, and dental hygienist. Students from all elementary, middle and high schools in the area can be referred to the center by their school’s nurse. Appointments are not necessary, center staff said, but can be made for sports physicals, immunizations, dental services and other non-emergent needs.

The center is open weekdays during the school year from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., except Mondays, when the center’s hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Health and dental care services are available to kids with private health insurance, public health insurance or are uninsured.

Centennial High School is at 3505 S.E. 182nd Ave., Gresham. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call the health center at 503-988-5488.

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