Petersburg leaders want to create school-based healthcare clinic

Petersburg leaders want to create school-based healthcare clinic
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PETERSBURG, VA (WWBT) - A major discussion is underway to bring something to Petersburg that hasn't been seen in Virginia: a school-based healthcare facility.

Petersburg falls at the bottom of the list when it comes to the healthiest cities Virginia. City leaders are saying enough is enough and are planning a new initiative to fight back.

Imagine a doctor's office inside of a school. It's a concept that every state in the country has – except Virginia. Petersburg is hoping to change that.

Year after year, the results have been the same, with Petersburg falling at the bottom in a ranking of healthy localities. The 2018 ranking was released in March. Researchers examine factors such as tobacco and drug use, diet and exercise, and sexual activity.

"What that ranking doesn't catch is how healthy the passion and innovation is in Petersburg," said Audrey Trussell, head of the City and Schools Partnership in Petersburg.

She's working to tackle the city's health challenge, starting with the youth.

"Let's say there's a student named Clarence who has asthma, right? So Clarence walks in and he's a high schooler, and he's lived his whole life managing asthma, but it affects him so much, it can keep him from going to school. It can keep him from playing sports," she explained.

A proposed school-based health center - similar to a community clinic - would offer day-long services with doctors on-hand to complement school nurses, who Trussell says are few and inundated right now.

"The school nurse can refer students to the primary care provider, or dental or vision or mental health care provider on-site, and it serves as a place for them to continue that care, as opposed to finding barriers to where they can't provide services," she added.

Barriers like not having health insurance, which wouldn't ban students from getting care at school under this plan.

"This school-based health center initiative really speaks to that passion and energy, which is incredibly healthy and is a turnkey initiative to really start chipping away at the obstacles that lead to that health ranking," Trussell said.

This proposal is a joint effort between the City of Petersburg and Petersburg Schools. Some 100 local and state community groups are also involved with planning. Right now, organizers are awaiting critical funding that will help make this vision a reality, as organizers strive for a 2019 launch.

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