Lincoln Park HS starts free health clinic for all its students

Our schools are filled with students who need better access to health care. Now a new school health clinic in Lincoln Park is working to meet the needs of students in the place they learn. 

From physical health to mental health, this Henry Ford school-based health center is quite literally meeting the kids where they are.

"This is really the front lines. If we want to see big change - big changes with healthy lifestyle - we have to go where the kids are. And they're in school," says Henry Ford Health nurse Monica Vasquez.

"These kids can't learn if they're struggling at home, so being able to have somewhere to come and talk and vent and just have an ear, I think it's going to make a difference," adds Jessica Cuz, a clinical therapist with Henry Ford Health. 

In fact, it already has. 

The clinic opened at the beginning of the school year and has gradually been growing in popularity with the students, who are able to see a nurse, a therapist and a nurse practitioner either on-site or using virtual technology.

"I can tell a lot of people are doing better because of this," says student Kameryn Casebonne. "It's very welcoming and just a place you can be yourself and not be judged."

"Last year I would go home if i was sick but this year I feel like I can come to the clinic and then still go to class after. It like, really helps," says another student, Deyvahn Oliver. 

The data does show, too, that absences are down. 

The key is access and attitude. The health center is right in school and it's free.

The staff is caring and helping to lessen the stigma that surrounds mental health while encouraging kids to get healthy. Deyvahn, for example, quit drinking sugary drinks and is losing weight. 

"If it wasn't for them I probably wouldn't even try," he says.

Lincoln Park High School principal Dan Mercer and wife, Mandy Mercer, the district nurse consultant, knew their students needed additional resources to succeed in school and life. They say this is an opportunity to meet them where they are, to get physicals and vaccinations, to treat aches and pains and illnesses as well as anxiety, depression and so much more.

"These kids come to school with a lot - a lot of baggage - and not just medically but the mental health issue is huge," Mandy says. 

"We all have those days when we don't feel our best and having the ability to meet that here while they are still able to learn and get what they need, it's been an extreme positive for our community," Dan says. 

The clinic is open to all 5,000 students who are part of Lincoln Park schools, and they are hoping to expand and open another clinic at the middle school.

"I feel like we're kind of leading the way. I think that more districts will jump on board," Mandy says. "I think it's great; I think every school should have it."

"The more we can offer the better society is as a whole. We get kids in school, get them graduating, getting them into the workforce," says nurse Vasquez. "We can't solve every problem but we can at least be someone here for them every single day."