Southwest Open School is in the process of replacing a modular building on the south side of campus with a brand-new school-based health clinic.
In the new space, SWOS will continue to provide students with limited primary care, dental care and mental health services, including group counseling.
“We’re going to have a lot more space to do all of that,” said Jennifer Carter the school’s director. The new 1,454-square-foot building is replacing a 600-square-foot modular building.
The new building is being funded through a $300,000 grant through the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and will be completed by June 30, as part of the grant requirements.
The construction of the new health clinic is the first step in replacing all of the campus’ modular buildings, which are about 45 years old, with permanent structures.
“They are falling apart,” said Carter.
The school has been planning to remodel and seeking the funds for about 12 years.
Last school year, the SWOS board decided to launch a new capital program and seek funding to build one new building at time. The school was not planning to start with the clinic, but they received the grant and decided to take the opportunity.
“We so desperately need new structures, we have to start somewhere,” she said.
The clinic has been a part of the model on campus since 1998 and since then it has expanded its services through the years to include mental and dental health, said Shannon Wells, the clinic coordinator.
Carter said having onsite medical care helps the staff to focus on teaching.
“It allows the instructors to do more of their instructing rather than navigate all of these complex issues that some our kids come to us with,” Carter said.
The clinic is almost entirely grant funded.
The Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment, The Colorado Health Foundation, United Way and an anonymous funder cover 95 percent of the clinic’s operation expenses.
“The money supports funding of health care services for low-income children and does not come from educational money,” Wells said.
Last year the clinic served 500 unduplicated students from Southwest Open School and the Montezuma- Cortez School Distric, Wells said.
However, as of last fall the care is no longer free. In order to make the clinic sustainable Carter said care must be paid for through insurance and Medicaid. Wells said encouraging students and their families to sign up for care helps the students be prepared to find a primary care doctor in the community.
As they transition through the change, staff worked to make sure all the students have access to the clinic, Wells said.
“We don’t turn away anybody,” Carter said.