Strong Partnerships and a Sound Business Model Help an SBHC Thrive

By Laura Brey, Senior Training and Technical Assistance Specialist, School-Based Health Alliance

IL Coalition for School health centers 1Chicago’s 2014-2015 school year is bright for students attending Sullivan High School, neighboring Kilmer Elementary, their families, and both school faculties. The community is now served by a thriving school-based health center (SBHC) that is providing access to high-quality health care for students, parents, and teachers. This is a staggering success when you consider that at the end of the 2012-13 school year, the SBHC was closed by its medical sponsor.

Kids and teens lost their access to health care, and families, school administration, and students were discouraged when the Kilmer-Sullivan SBHC was shut down. The schools sit side-by-side on adjoining city blocks in Chicago, Illinois, and serve some of the city’s poorest children. More than 90 percent are on free and reduced lunch and Medicaid eligible, with the majority representing at-risk, minority populations. The SBHC was a vital point of access to health care services for young people in the community.

School-Based Health Alliance affiliate EverThrive Illinois, contacted CVS Workforce Initiatives (WI) to seek their support and assistance in reopening the Kilmer-Sullivan SBHC. WI had been an inaugural corporate partner of the School-Based Health Alliance, a national supporter of the SBHC model, and an advocate for SBHCs employing Expected Value (EV) and Return on Investment (ROI) as a sustainability strategy for over five years.

Together, they launched a new SHC Innovation Project, in partnership with the Hispanic Heritage Foundation, Chicago Public Schools, Illinois Department of Public Health, and the Advocate Children’s Hospital. The partners implemented a strong business plan as the cornerstone of the SBHC, and the Kilmer-Sullivan SBHC reopened on August 29, 2013. The SBHC had 2,875 patient encounters during the 2013-2014 school year, more visits than when they were under their previous medical sponsor. The revitalized SBHC—committed to providing care during school hours that did not interfere with core classes—provided risk assessments, well child visits, and other preventive care. During its first year of operation, more than 76 percent of students had consents on file and 88 percent of them were seen.

During a March 2014 site visit to this busy center, I witnessed the transformation. The Kilmer-Sullivan SBHC exemplifies many of the components of the School-Based Health Alliance’s SBHC sustainability model, plus new innovations that CVS WI’s private sector expertise has brought to the project.

The Kilmer-Sullivan SBHC is providing quality, customer-focused services to Chicago youth thanks to strong partnerships and a sound business model. I look forward to working closely with CVS WI over the coming year to learn more from this success story and to translate the lessons-learned to the entire school-based health care field.

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