LPN Christine Puffenbarger, seated, discusses the Wildcat Wellness Center with Meadow Bridge High School students Korey Persinger, second from left, Justin Bennett and Ronnie Ward. Bennett is the son of the late Joe Bennett, a coach and teacher who was a staunch supporter of the center.

Steve Keenan
The Fayette Tribune, Oak Hill, W.Va.

MEADOW BRIDGE — The community got an up-close look at the Wildcat Wellness Center last week.

Visitors and dignitaries participated in an open house detailing the operation of the school-based health center (SBHC), which is affiliated with the Rainelle Medical Center. The Wildcat Wellness Center, open since Oct. 1997, provides sick visits, well child exams, immunizations, chronic care management, sports physicals, and mental health counseling for students at the local high school and elementary school. In the 2006-07 school year, the center had 998 visits and 262 users, and there were 22 classroom presentations on health-related topics involving 520 participants. Forty percent of all users received a comprehensive physical examination.

The refurbished facilities on display at the open house were made possible by funding from the Sisters of St. Joseph’s Health and Wellness Foundation.

Wildcat Wellness is one of 45 SBHCs that exist in the state. The centers started in 1994 as a three-year pilot project funded by the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health and the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation. A statewide campaign undertaken by the West Virginia Primary Care Association (WVPCA) and the West Virginia School-Based Health Assembly (WVSBHA) is stressing the importance of the centers to their communities.

Chris Perkins, superintendent of Fayette County Schools, said he supports the work being done at WWC and similar centers.

“Many people in the state are unaware of these centers, and that needs to change,” he said. “School-based health is important for West Virginia students to allow them to learn in the best of conditions. It is also an integral part of the state’s overall health care system.”

The WVSBHA’s Brian Crist says the campaign is an opportunity to inform state leaders and the general public about a valuable health care resource for children.

“I’ve been in meetings where the idea of school-based health was given as an option to consider,” the group’s president said. “When I tell them these facilities already exist, they ask what they can do to help. We hope these open houses will initiate that type of discussion.”

In addition to displaying the center’s capabilities, those at the open house paused to remember and pay tribute to deceased Meadow Bridge coach and teacher Joe Earl Bennett, who passed away in 2007. According to Judy Koehler, director of school-based health services for Rainelle Medical, staff felt it was appropriate to honor Bennett for the support he provided.

“Coach Bennett always believed in what we were doing here,” said Koehler. “This is our way of showing how much he was appreciated.”

Wildcat Wellness Center is open from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays. Mental health services are offered Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“The support we receive from faculty, administration and parents is great,” said Koehler. “We’re very happy to have the opportunity to thank them for their support and also let other people know about the care we’re providing.”

For more information on the WWC, visit rmchealth.org or call 438-6188. For more on school-based health centers in the state, visit www.wvsbha.org.

This Week's Circulars