Diedra Williams was panicking.
She’d waited too long to schedule a health screening for her rising kindergartener, Dyani, and now the earliest appointment she could get was Sept. 30. Without an earlier health check, her daughter would have to start school a month late.
“It was a nightmare,” she said. “I felt like a failure as a mother.”
Then someone told her about five new clinics that recently opened at five elementary schools in Durham Public Schools. She was able to make an appointment and her daughter started school on time.
Last week, officials with DPS, the Durham County Department of Public Health and the Duke Division of Community Health came together at Oak Grove Elementary School to celebrate the official launch of Healthy Futures Durham Schools.
The preventive care program, which is open to any child under 18 who is living in Durham County, operates in five DPS elementary schools: E.K. Powe, George Watts, Glenn, Merrick Moore and Oak Grove.
Each clinic offers immunizations, health check-ups for well children, kindergarten physicals for school, vision and hearing screenings, dental fluoride treatment, lead testing, and referrals to community resources.
“In order to make a healthier community overall, we have to make sure our children are healthy enough to accept the learning experience,” said Yolanda Moses, administrative assistant for the clinics at Oak Grove and Merrick Moore. “A lot of things can affect children’s ability to learn.”
Gayle Harris, director of the Durham County Department of Public Health, applauds the community collaboration. The health department provided the three nurses who travel among the five clinics and Durham Public Schools provided the administrative support.
Meanwhile, the Duke Division of Community Health offered an $86,000 grant to help renovate the clinic space and purchase medical supplies, said Eric Nickens Jr., spokesman for the health department.
“Everyone contributed their part,” he said.
Harris noted that although the clinics have been operating for roughly a year, it was only recently that they became fully staffed.
“We were building a plane and flying it at the same time,” she said.
But during that last year, the clinics were able to schedule about 117 appointments, she said.
Jennifer Halsey, an assistant principal at Oak Grove Elementary School, said she is happy to have one of the five clinics at her school.
“It’s a great partnership because it’s so convenient for parents to have their child’s physical done here,” she said. “They already come here, and they already feel comfortable here.”
Halsey said the clinic also supports the school’s wellness mission. Specifically, she said, they want to spread the message that parents shouldn’t just take their child to the doctor when they’re sick but rather, for preventative wellness checks too.
Richard Lemke, principal of DPS Hospital School at Duke’s Children Hospital, said he was grateful to the program for “keeping healthy kids in school.”
“Look at what the community can do and what partnerships can do when we all have a clear goal,” he said.
Williams said the opening of the clinics gives her hope that people still care about public schools and the children who attend them.
“At a time when the state is giving up on our public schools, this is something that makes sense,” she said.
Residents can call any of the five clinics. The staff will tell callers which location has the earliest appointment. Residents can also make appointments by location.
Payments are on a sliding scale. The clinics accept Medicaid, Health Choice and Self Pay for all services. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina is filed for immunizations only.
Regular operating hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Summer hours will be posted at www.dconc.gov/chapp
▪ Healthy Futures Durham Schools at E.K. Powe Elementary (913 Ninth St., 27705) - (919) 287-4185
▪ Healthy Futures Durham Schools at George Watts Elementary (700 Watts St., 27701) - (919) 560-2555
▪ Healthy Futures Durham Schools at Glenn Elementary (2415 E. Geer St., 27704) - (919) 560-2211
▪ Healthy Futures Durham Schools at Merrick Moore Elementary (2325 Cheek Rd., 27704) - (919) 287-4184
▪ Healthy Futures Durham Schools at Oak Grove Elementary (3810 Wake Forest Rd., 27703) - (919) 560-2327