Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
State and local officials, MUSD administrators, and Camarena Health officials and board members gather for the groundbreaking of a new health center at Madera South High School.
Ground broken for school-based clinic
In the face of a cold, bitter wind and rain, government officials from Madera county and city joined Congressman Jim Costa, Assemblyman Frank Bigelow, and Madera Unified school board members to celebrate groundbreaking for the new Camarena Health school-based health center on the campus of Madera South High School.
More than 50 people took refuge in a large tent Friday morning to witness several dignitaries turn the first shovels of dirt where construction is set to begin on the new clinic.
The facility is scheduled to open in the fall, just after the beginning of school.
The idea for the school-based health center at MSHS, which has been in the planning stages for over two years, is the work of intensive collaboration between Camarena Health and Madera Unified School District.
According to Nichole Mosqueda, Camarena’s director of programs and development, Camarena is leasing the land from MUSD for the clinic and will construct the building, which will be located near the Stadium Road side of the MSHS campus.
The new facility will provide medical, dental, and behavioral health services, as well as health education services, to students at MSHS and other schools in the district.
Mosqueda explained, “It is a way for us to insure that students are staying healthy during the school day and after the school day.”
She said private and secure entrances underscore the nature of Camarena’s outreach as it makes the facility accessible for students, teachers, and families that live in this community.
According to Mosqueda, Camarena Health is staffing the clinic with a licensed clinical social worker, medical providers, and support staff. The clinic will also house three dental stations. In all there will be from 10 to 15 staff members, all employees of Camarena Health.
Plans for the clinic were expanded to ensure that the school nurse’s office is also in the new facility.
The close collaboration between Camarena Health and Madera Unified in building the clinic has drawn praise from several sources.
Costa commented, “I’m proud to celebrate today’s groundbreaking, and I applaud Camarena Health and MUSD for their commitment to ensuring that Madera students and their families receive quality health care services.”
MUSD Interim Superintendent Todd Lile noted, “Camarena Health and Madera Unified have a long and successful partnership, and the new school-based health center is the ultimate and proud outcome of our joint mission to improve the lives of our students.”
Camarena Health CEO Paulo Soares said, “Healthcare and education are two key elements of a healthy community, and we are very excited about this great partnership with MUSD to help bring them together.”
Cooperation between Camarena Health, MSHS nurses, and the health service staff of Madera Unified makes it possible for the school’s nursing program students to use the clinic for educational purposes.
In an earlier statement, Soares said the clinic will provide primary care services such as sick visits, screenings, immunizations, sports physicals, health and nutrition education, and dental care.
Soares told The Tribune that Camarena is the only federally qualified health center in Madera County and currently partners with MUSD through activities such as its School Wellness Committee, and Health Career Pathways program.
In May 2015, Mosqueda told Madera Unified trustees there are 231 school-based health centers in California, all located directly on school campuses. She said at the time that they all provide “integrated primary care service like any other health clinic.”
In partnering with Camarena Health in the school based clinic, Madera Unified has opened another avenue for the expansion of the considerable health services now offered by Camarena.
In 2016, there were 146,865 visits by more than 30,000 patients to various Camarena facilities in Madera County. These included medical, vision, dental, and mental health visits.
Sixty-seven percent of these patients were on Medicaid, and 12 percent were uninsured.