TCAPS: Newly open, Student Health Center welcoming patients

Jan. 20—TRAVERSE CITY — The doors are open and the invitations have gone out: Students and parents are welcome at Traverse City Area Public Schools' new Student Health Center.

In fact, from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Jan. 29, an open house and ribbon-cutting ceremony will celebrate the new center at West Middle School.

This partnership between TCAPS and Northwest Michigan Health Services Inc. has been going on for more than a year, with construction starting last summer.

The goal of the new center is to "provide convenient and affordable primary care and behavioral health services to TCAPS students," according to the school district's website.

District and health officials said the clinic is an opportunity for students to take an active role in their own well-being.

"We want the community to know that we're here for them," says Linda Stark, community health worker with Northwest Michigan Health Services. "This is isn't about competing with other healthcare providers. We're here to collaborate to ensure that our kids are being taken care of."

The website states that any visit information will be sent to a child's primary care provider to ensure consistency in care. But the clinic can serve as a child's primary care provider, if needed.

Northwest Michigan Health Services CEO Heidi Britton said, "It keeps them in school, it keeps that parent from losing their job or missing work. It's an opportunity for families to connect back to their primary (care provider), if they have one. It supports schools because they no longer have to hire school nurses to handle day-to-day stuff."

The center offers various medical and behavioral health, and patient support services, including physical exams, vision/hearing screenings, treatment for acute and chronic illness, crisis intervention, substance-use counseling and education, and telehealth visits as needed.

Britton said that a goal is to have transportation for kids who need services there, but aren't able to get to the center because of a parents' unavailability.

In January 2023, a $150,000 American Rescue Plan Act grant, allocated by Grand Traverse County, was awarded to the district to start initial construction. With most of the project being completed by the fall, all that was left was to add some final touches on the space.

The clinic at 3954 Silver Lake Road on the campus of West Middle School is located in the schools' former art center.