Camarena Health expands to Madera South High

Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune Madera Unified School District officials are joined by Camarena Health administrators and board members for a ribbon cutting ceremony for the new health care facility on the Madera South High campus on Friday.


School-based health center opens doors to students, teachers, parents

Although rain was in the forecast, it didn’t dampen the spirits of the constellation of community leaders who gathered at Madera South High School Friday to celebrate the opening of the Camarena School Based Health Center.

Madera Unified trustees, educational leaders, city council members, Camarena board members and staff, and representatives of political leaders joined the community at large to acknowledge what MUSD Superintendent Todd Lile called “a truly, absolutely, without question, momentous occasion.”

Lile was referring to the idea that was on the drawing board for more than two years and is now a reality. He spoke of the unique partnership of health services and educational services that is represented by the new Camarena Health Center and now sits on the East End of the Madera South High School campus.

Prior to the traditional ribbon-cutting ceremony, key community leaders joined in a 30-minute tribute to the opening of the new facility.

Master of Ceremonies Jason Vega, CEO of Central Valley Health Network, introduced Camarena Health CEO Paulo Soares, MUSD Superintendent Lile, MSHS principal Oracio Rodriguez, and Madera Mayor Andy Medellin. Each stepped to the podium to praise the new health center and to recognize its uniqueness.

Madera South’s 3,000 students now have, within a stone’s throw of their classrooms, a full compliment of health providers, including medical, dental, and behavior health workers.

The Camarena staff, which includes a physician, nurses, and other medical assistants, is also available to serve the school’s teachers and its wider community.

Rodriguez noted that the center will be the school’s first line of defense in dealing with health problems. He called the new facility a “game changer.”

“It is the school’s job to recognize health problems,” Rodriguez said, “Now we have the resources within our reach.”

Rodriguez explained, “Now we can open the door (to health care), walk them (students) in, and greet them on the way out.”

“It is a life changing service for Madera South High School families,” Rodriguez maintained.

It will also lift a huge burden off of the shoulders of the school’s nurse, who now can screen students with potential health problems and refer them to the Camarena Health staff when necessary.

Soares said the health center will provide primary care services such as sick visits, screenings, immunizations, sports physicals, health and nutrition education in addition to the dental and behavior health services.

Medellin had high praise for Soares, with whom he has worked closely. He said because of the vision of the Camarena CEO, quality and accessible health care is going to reach every corner of the county.

“This is absolutely fantastic, not only for Madera but also for the entire community,” said Medellin. “I am very excited as mayor to represent the city in this,” he said, “It is not about me, but it is about our entire community.”

Madera South’s school based health center will also enhance its nursing program by offering more opportunities in the district’s Health Career Pathway. According to Lile, the new Matilda Torres High School will also have a school based health center.

In 2017, Camarena Health’s 37,000 patients made 162,000 visits to its facilities. Sixty-seven percent of these patients were on Medicaid and 12 percent were uninsured.

Fifty-six percent of Camarena’s patients were agriculture workers.