Shuswap North Okanagan school-based clinic will improve access to care for rural students

A new wellness centre at the Sullivan Campus of Salmon Arm Secondary will provide health care services and mental health support to local students who may otherwise encounter barriers in accessing care. The clinic, a collaborative project between the Shuswap North Okanagan Division, the Child and Youth Mental Health and Substance Use Collaborative, and the Shuswap Local Action Team (which includes school district representatives), will open in January 2018.

The clinic, similar to the school-based care clinics established by Nanaimo and South Island divisions, will incorporate a team-based care model, providing students with access to a family doctor, nurses, and counsellors one day per week. While all students can access the clinic, services provided will primarily address gaps in care for rural students—school district data show that 20% of students at Salmon Arm Secondary rely on school buses to get to school, meaning that at least one in five students can’t see a doctor without skipping school to attend an appointment during clinic hours.

Access isn’t the only issue faced by students seeking health care services. It is also challenging for students to understand how the health care system works, and seeing a doctor can be an intimidating experience. To ensure students had a say in making the new clinic accessible and teen-friendly, a student council for the centre was formed to guide the planning process and help determine which services are needed most, and how best to deliver them.

The Salmon Arm Secondary clinic is the first school-based clinic project to be undertaken by a division in BC’s interior, and will initially operate as a one-year pilot project. Data will be collected during the pilot phase to determine whether the project can be implemented with long-term funding.

Click here to learn more about the clinic.