According to the National Assembly of School Based Health Care, students perform better when they show up for class healthy and ready to learn. School-based health centers (SBHCs) bring the doctor's office to the school so students avoid health-related absences and get support to succeed in the classroom. SBHCs may vary based on community need and resources. For instance, some communities rely on mobile health centers, a type of SBHC with a traveling health-care team that rotates from school to school. But they also share common characteristics: They are are located in schools or on school grounds, work cooperatively within the school to become an integral part of the school, provide a comprehensive range of services that meet the specific physical and behavioral health needs of the young people in the community. The program also uses multidisciplinary teams of providers to care for the students: nurse practitioners, registered nurses, physician assistants, social workers, physicians, alcohol and drug counselors, and other health professionals.
In Lincoln County Dr. Omar's team works with kids in sixth through 12th grade with their parents' permission, and they have been busy since they took up work in the county. In the last year and a half, the pair has seen more than 180 students The emphasis is providing guidance and information for kids who are participating in risky behaviors. Dr. Omar also treats students for depression, attention deficit disorder, substance abuse, eating disorders, anxiety, behavioral problems and learning disorders. As Dr. Omar's partner, Dr. McLanahan provides psychological services for those children as well if needed.
The attention to students' mental health is probably the most important service the pair provide, Dr. Omar said. In Kentucky, suicide is the number-two killer of teenagers, and Drs. Omar and McLanahan reject any notion that that is acceptable. Their caring, holistic treatment of students has had a moving impact. Dr. Omar received a testimonial from a 17-year-old Lincoln County High School student who had experienced many problems since starting high school: abusive relationships, drugs, and anorexia. She attributes the turnaround in her life to the care she got from the SBHC.