HEALTH

Healthcare inside West High School

May 20, 2024, 12:00 PM | Updated: 2:16 pm

West High Principal Jared Wright with James Yapias in front of west high clinic sign...

West High Principal Jared Wright with James Yapias, Senior Director for Salt Lake Education Foundation. (Amanda Dickson/KSL NewsRadio)

(Amanda Dickson/KSL NewsRadio)

SALT LAKE CITY — The doctor will see you now… at West High School. Inside what used to be an old, unused locker room, students now see nurses, pediatricians, psychiatrists and psychologists.

“We see students for all types of pediatric concerns which can be sports injuries, concussions, kids with sore throats, abdominal pain, the whole gamut,” explained Kelley Trump, nursing supervisor and manager of the West High School Clinic.

Kelley Trump at west high school clinic

Kelley Trump in an exam room at West High School Clinic. (Amanda Dickson/KSL NewsRadio)

“Another big service is sports physicals — getting the kids ready to play in the summer and in the fall,” said Trump.

How many times has a student-athlete been unable to take the field or the court because they didn’t have their required physical examination?

“Coaches love it,” Principal Jared Wright said. “They’ve actually overwhelmed the clinic a few times. It’s great for the athletes.”

Wright explained, “The needs of students today are significantly different than they were 20 years ago. This is the system adapting to the needs of students.”

Mental health services at the West High School Clinic

“When you look at the suicide rate, we were the top in the nation,” explained James Yapias, Senior Director for the Salt Lake Education Foundation. “When we saw that, we started thinking outside the box — how do we take the clinic to the students? How do we be more responsive and really meet our students’ needs?”

Trump explained, “We see kids with anxiety, depression, mental health concerns. They can be identified by a counselor, a parent, or a student could self-identify. We have psychiatrists and psychologists ready to see them and help them.”

Trump described students who have walked in and said, “I want to do better in school, but I don’t think my brain is processing information.”

At the clinic, they are able to diagnose and treat them.

an exam room at west high clinic

Exam room at West High Health Clinic. (Amanda Dickson/KSL NewsRadio)

Sometimes students of this age feel more comfortable talking to a nurse or doctor about a problem than they would a parent.

“It happens every day,” Trump said. “We have a minor confidentiality form. The parent signs it and gives permission for a private conversation to happen with a doctor. So the parent knows it’s happening and is supportive of it happening.”

It isn’t much of a stretch to think that this kind of access to healthcare could save people’s lives.

“We have had children with suicidal ideations,” Trump explained. “Our psychiatrists and psychologists have helped to create a safety plan. It’s shared with parents. It kind of rallies people around the student.”

Effect on education

If the student’s improved health isn’t enough to argue in favor of this model, they’ve seen students’ grades go up at West.

“It also helps kids stay in school,” Trump offered. “When their physical and mental health needs are met, they’re less likely to skip school. We see increased graduation rates and increased attendance.”

West High School has almost 3,000 students.

“We talk about barriers in education,” Wright said. “If students are facing something they need care for, we can address that. We’ve had students come back to school because of it.”

Imagine a student being able to see a doctor, psychiatrist, or psychologist right next to his or her science or history class. They could take care of whatever issue they’re experiencing and get back to class.

“A healthy student has a better chance to succeed,” Yapias emphasized.

Work closely with parents

Parents are very much involved in this new healthcare offering at West High.

“We don’t see a student without the parent’s permission if they’re under 18,” Trump explained. “When a provider sees a student, they call that parent and come up with a successful plan.”

Often parents come into the clinic with the student, or sometimes they join by telehealth so they don’t have to take a whole or half day off work to take their child to the doctor.

reception desk at west high clinic

Reception area at West High Healthcare Clinic. (Amanda Dickson/KSL NewsRadio)

Model for the future

This kind of healthcare clinic inside a high school might just be the way of the future.

“School-based health is a standard across our nation,” Trump explained, “but it hasn’t made a foothold in the West. This is the first one in Utah.”

Yapias said they have big plans for the future, starting in the fall of 2024.

“We’re about to launch the program district-wide as it relates to high schools,” he said. “All high schools will be able to access the clinic beginning in the fall, including for physicals for athletes.”

Students from other high schools in the Salt Lake District can access this clinic by appointment beginning in the next school year.

“In the Salt Lake School District, we have a dental clinic and a vision clinic,” Yapias explained. “We have three community learning centers with clinics. But this is unique at a high school. It has never been done in the state of Utah.”

How you can help

If you want to support this effort to bring healthcare to the students, you can do so by going to the Salt Lake Education Foundation website.

“We work with charitable funds to support children who cannot afford healthcare,” Yapias explained.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

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Healthcare inside West High School