In an effort to better help students with their physical and mental health needs, school officials in Van Dyke Public Schools (VDPS) have added a new health clinic at Lincoln High School this year.
The Henry Ford Health System clinic opened on the first day of school, Sept. 3. It will be open on school days from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. VDPS Superintendent Piper Bognar said the clinic will be available to all Van Dyke students and anyone in the community ages 4-21.
“We’ve had a partnership with Henry Ford (for) several years. We talked about how wonderful it would be to have a clinic on-site,” Bognar said. “When the opportunity arose, we knew it would be perfect.”
The district received grant money from several organizations to house the clinic and provide staff salaries. The grant sources include the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services’ Expanding, Enhancing Emotional Health grant, Henry Ford Health System, Comerica Bank, the Children’s Health Fund and the Ford Motor Co. Fund.
Jennifer Kopnick is the nurse on duty. She described her new role at the school as “kind of mom care.” District officials also are looking for a social worker/therapist to work inside the clinic. Parents will need to fill out a consent form for their children to be treated.
“They have to fill out a form that they’re giving consent,” Kopnick said. “Parents must sign the consent form.”
Several services are offered at the new clinic. The clinic is open for children who are experiencing physical and/or mental health issues.
Individual therapy and group therapy for students in need of mental health treatment will be available as well. That may include students who come from unstable homes, might be feeling suicidal, are abusing drugs or alcohol, are having relationship problems with family members or friends, have questions about sex, or just need somebody to talk to. Students also might be upset regarding something that was posted on social media.
“I know (that for) a lot of kids this age, there’s a lot of stigma regarding therapy. They don’t want to talk about their problems in their lives,” Kopnick said. “I want them to feel comfortable and encourage them. The more they stay with you, the more they will open up to you. Some of them just need a few minutes to have somebody listen to them. I’ll listen to them and assess the situation.”
On the first day of school, Kopnick went inside each classroom to introduce herself to the students. She said adding the new clinic is offering the students a support system “they don’t necessarily have.”
Each school in the district has a social worker inside the building. The new health clinic adds even more assistance.
“Having the addition of the health clinic, we will have other professionals who will be here to assist our students,” Bognar said. “We want to reach out and meet our students’ needs.”
Kopnick said one aspect of the clinic will be to provide materials to students with asthma should they need them.
“That way we can keep the kids healthy,” she said.
The new clinic is located inside the former teachers lounge, which has moved. Inside the clinic is a waiting area, an office and an examination room.