At the Corner of Health and Academic Achievement: Thundermist Health Center “Links to Success” Program

By Erin Ashe, Program Assistant, School-Based Health Alliance

Thundermist-logoSchool-based health centers (SBHCs) are uniquely poised to deliver care where heath and academic achievement intersect. Thundermist Health Center, a New Directions for School-Based Health grantee, knows that a multifaceted model addressing the student’s health, behavioral wellbeing, school environment, and family needs is required to ensure academic success and put the student on a road to graduate from high school. Providers in the school-based health care field often aim to treat the “whole child” and expand their reach outside the SBHC walls. Despite best intentions too often time, staffing, funding, and lack of support can impede such a holistic goal. However, Thundermist Health Center has successfully set the wheels in motion to pave a road between health and academics – and the SBHC is driving. Next stop: increased academic achievement.

Both Woonsocket and West Warwick schools have lower attendance rates than the Rhode Island state average. Woonsocket High School sees between 60 and 70 9th graders fail or drop out every year. Thundermist Health Center knew there was a better way and knew the SBHCs could aid in reducing these statistics. Therefore, they designed the “Links to Success” program: a comprehensive, highly-coordinated approach providing wrap-around services to the most academically and behaviorally at-risk students. By addressing student needs from multiple fronts – within the clinic, in the school, and with the students’ family – Thundermist aims to increase overall wellbeing and academic success.

The Links to Success program identifies at-risk rising 9th graders and provides these students with the needed resources to ensure their success when transitioning into high school, with any luck intervening even before the problem has truly manifested. The program’s comprehensive approach tackles barriers to success through providing medical, social work, and case management services at the SBHC; connecting the students and their families to community organizations and resources; and ensuring the students have valuable relationships with school staff, SBHC staff, and peer role models.

Comprehensive? Yes. Complicated and challenging? Absolutely! This program is no small task; however, by deepening existing relationships within the school and in the community, as well as developing new relationships, Thundermist has gained support for the program and instrumental allies in providing coordinated care that is responsive to the unique needs of the student – whether these needs be health-related, behaviorally-related, or socioeconomic barriers in the family.

Thundermist hopes to engage at least 60 students in the Links to Success program this year. Listen to Dr. Beata Nelken, Thundermist Community Health Programs Medical Director and pediatrician, and Joanne Dwyer, Director, Corporate Communications and Community Relations at CVS Health, speak about the Links to Success program during a community connections radio segment on WOON 1240 AM.

The New Directions for School-Based Health grants is an initiative of School-Based Health Alliance in partnership with CVS Health. Learn more about the innovative approaches all nine grantees are currently implementing in their SBHCs by visiting our website.

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1 Comment

  1. by Jesse White-Frese' on September 23, 2014 at 11:57 am

    Congratulations to Thundermist Health Centers for their innovative approach to ensuring student success. We’ll look to our Rhode Island neighbors to lead the way in developing a pathway to high school graduation through the support of the school based health centers.

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