“The concept, in a nutshell, is that healthy kids can learn better,” Cameron said. She said the two high school nurses saw 1,400 students last year, totaling 9,000 visits. About 3,000 of those students required medication administrated on a regular basis.
Bettencourt said the proposal came together after discussions with Cameron, school nursing staff and retired state Sen. Fred Berry. Berry attended last night’s meeting and urged the board to support the project.
“It’s so needed at this time ... people don’t even recognize the need that is there,” Berry said. Mental health services are especially needed, he said.
North Shore Community Health Center Inc., a nonprofit based in Salem, currently operates a similar facility at Salem High School. The organization also runs family health clinics in Peabody, Salem and Gloucester.
The city has secured an $86,000 federal grant, along with $100,000 from the JB Thomas Lahey Foundation and $160,000 over two years from Boston Children’s Hospital. Brian McCarthy of Energi also contributed $10,000 via the McCarthy Foundation.
Bettencourt said that about half of the money secured would go toward renovating the existing wood shop at the school, which is moving to the new regional vocational school in Danvers, into a health center. The other half would go toward operation of the center. He thanked former Mayor Michael Bonfanti for input on the project and helping secure financing.
Construction is slated to occur over the summer with the center opening to students in late October. Cameron said the centers are licensed and regulated by the state. There is a five-year commitment attached to Lahey’s contribution.
Maggie Brennan, the CEO of NSCHI, told school board members that services typically offered are physical exams, immunizations, emergency and nonemergency care, health education, student workshops and counseling.
“My support is very strong for the clinic because of the mental health component,” said School Committee member Beverley Griffin Dunne. She said those needs are underserved, even though it’s vital to living a healthy life. “This will be a huge, huge benefit to all of us.”
The committee then took a separate, but related, vote to not provide students with condoms at the new health center. The board voted 4-1 with Dave McGeney voting “no.” He did not elaborate on his position supporting providing condoms.
Brennan said teen health centers in Salem, Lynn and Gloucester, likewise, do not distribute condoms.
You can reach John Castelluccio at 978-338-2527, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter at @SNjcastelluccio.