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Colonial School district announces four new elementary wellness centers

Sophia Schmidt, Delaware Public Media
Sandra Jackson, NP, at the Eisenberg Elementary Wellness Center's official opening in April

Colonial School District’s elementary wellness center program is expanding with four new satellite centers.

Colonial remains the first in the state to have wellness centers at elementary schools, according to district officials.

The new satellite centers at Wilmington Manor, Pleasantville, New Castle, and Carrie Downie Elementary Schools have begun offering full time behavioral health services, and will soon add medical services at least one day a week.

The wellness center at Eisenberg Elementary officially opened last spring. It’s the only one with a lab, but students enrolled at the others can access Eisenberg’s after school.

The centers offer behavioral health services and medical services— like physicals, immunizations and diagnosing and treating acute problems. The centers also refer families to primary care physicians based on individual access needs.

Forrest Watson is with Life Health Center, the provider staffing the centers. He says providing health services to students at no cost regardless of insurance coverage is especially important in Colonial School District, where many students live below the poverty line.

“The Route 9 corridor is actually what you call a health desert, so on the actual corridor itself there is no primary care, there is no health care. So what we do is we provide that linkage,” he said.

As of 2016, all public high schools in Delaware—except charters—are required to have school-based health centers.


Colonial School District’s Director of Student Services Dr. Jon Cooper says high school students aren’t the only ones who need easier access to physical and mental healthcare.

“That access problem doesn’t start in 9th grade. In many cases, that access problem starts at birth,” he said.

According to Watson, Nemours data showed that only 37 percent of students at Eisenberg have primary care doctors.

Watson says nearly 500 students enrolled in Eisenberg Elementary’s wellness center last school year— and roughly 300 accessed services.

Cooper says the district hopes to put wellness centers in all eight of its elementary schools — and to eventually install them at middle schools, so students can access medical and behavioral services kindergarten through grade 12.  

According to the Department of Health and Social Services, there are currently 31 school-based health centers operated in high schools across the state. 

Under state law, insurers must reimburse for services provided at school-based health centers recognized by Delaware’s Division of Public Health.  DPH regulations specify that students under 18 can only enroll for health centers services with a consent form signed by a parent or guardian.

Supplies, telemedicine systems and additional support for the Colonial School District's elementary wellness centers are provided by Nemours.

This story has been updated.

Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
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