Access to healthcare has been an ongoing issue, and for some families with children in Buffalo Public Schools, it is particularly acute for those without adequate health insurance, as well as those who may have language barriers and limited transportation options. Recognizing that many students and their families forego necessary healthcare, Say Yes Buffalo launched “Health In Motion,” in 2017, two mobile health clinics designed to bring primary care directly to schools.
The idea was to ensure that students could get health services so that they would be in the best position to learn. While Say Yes is primarily known for its scholarship program, the nonprofit organization understands that there are many factors that can stand in the way of strong academic performance. It sees its mission as comprehensive in addressing barriers to education whether it is hunger, mental health, clothing needs, or access to primary care.
Say Yes launched the mobile health clinics in partnership with Buffalo Public Schools, Community Health Center of Buffalo, Neighborhood Health Center of WNY, and Planned Parenthood of Central and Western New York. The specially-outfitted mobile units deliver care right to the schools with a rotating schedule of visits with the goal of providing primary care, immunizations, STD screening, and pregnancy tests in a convenient, yet private and safe setting. Students and their families can then be linked to one of the three health providers in the hopes of creating a longer-lasting relationship for healthcare.
As the pandemic hit in March of 2020 and schools switched to remote learning, the Mobile Clinics program was put on hold since they could no longer reach students at school. This fall, however, as some schools began welcoming students back on a limited basis, the Mobile Health Clinic visits were reinstated and rotate visits to Buffalo Public Schools based on student need. Whether attending in-person or remotely, students could once again take advantage of the healthcare provided, especially at such a critical time for many students and families who were under increased stress for many reasons.
While the clinics are primarily focused on providing necessary healthcare, these visits also provide ways for the schools to connect with their remote learning students and get a sense of other needs they or their families may have. Recently, a student had a well-child visit at the Mobile Clinic which resulted in helping the family schedule primary care appointments for seven additional family members at one of the Clinic’s partnering healthcare providers. There, the Bengali family could take advantage of translation services to help them communicate their health needs.
Neighborhood Health Center provides the services for the mobile unit when it visits Lafayette High School on the West Side. According to Lafayette Principal John Starkey, “Because of remote learning, we don’t always know what our families need or how they are doing during the pandemic. The Mobile Clinic is one way to help them with healthcare issues and we find it helps us to connect with students and learn about other needs as well. Checking in at the school through the Clinic allows us to learn more and it is not uncommon for us to also send students home with food, perhaps a “hotspot” so they can access the internet, or provide additional academic support.”