SALISBURY – The Wicomico County Board of Education has partnered with the public school system and the health department to establish a wellness center at Wicomico High School.
The center, which opened late last week, provides students access to health care and mental health counseling, according to the health department’s Program Manager Tracey Age.
“Hopefully, one of the goals is to connect them with a primary care physician and teach them healthy lifestyle behaviors that will benefit them as adults,” she said.
The center, funded through a grant from the Maryland Community Health Resources Commission (MCHRC), will allow students the opportunity to meet with nurse practitioners and social workers to assess their physical and mental needs.
Molly Parsons, one of the nurse practitioners housed at the wellness center, said the program highlights a correlation between health and education.
“It goes nicely with the theory that if they aren’t healthy, they won’t learn as well,” she said.
School nurses, the main point of contact, can now assess a student’s need and refer them to the wellness center, according to Age. Once there, Parsons and Nurse Practitioner Daisy Werkheiser, can examine the patient and prescribe medication if necessary.
Nurse Supervisor Shannon Palmer and licensed social worker Marla Morris will also be on staff to assist the students.
Parsons said the center collaborates with the parents to inform them on their child’s visit and prescriptions.
Enrollment for the program is now open, and packets were sent through the mail in recent weeks.
Parents are required to complete a consent, registration and health history form if they wish to enroll their children. There are no prerequisites for eligibility.
Age said the enrollment has no deadline, and individuals can pick up the packets from the school if they did not receive one in the mail.
The wellness center is temporarily located in the dressing rooms of the auditorium, according to officials. But a $180,917 grant from the Donnie Williams Foundation will provide the program with a portable building.
The center is now the second school-based program in the county, with another located in Wicomico Middle School.
“We have a strong presence there, and we work closely with the administration and nurses,” Age said.
The middle school wellness center began in 2001 with the sponsorship of the health department.
After officials with the department expressed a need for an additional location at Wicomico High, they worked with the Board of Education to apply for grant funding.
For several years, county officials were denied grant money. But Age said funding finally came through in the spring.
“We have a good partnership,” she said. “We collaborate with the Board of Education to provide programs that benefit the students.”
The three-year, $425,000 MCHRC grant will provide the school system and the health department with the resources to operate the center.
County Executive Bob Culver, State Sen. Jim Mathias and delegates were in attendance at the center’s ribbon-cutting ceremony Nov. 7, where they were given the opportunity to tour the facility.
The wellness center opened for students Nov. 16, but Age said the program could provide for staff in the future.
“We are just trying to get up and running,” Age said.