A closer look at Community Health Services: Regional Alliance for Healthy Schools

August 24, 2021  //  FOUND IN: Our Employees

The Regional Alliance for Healthy Schools (RAHS), a program of Community Health Services, believes healthy children of all ages make better students.

With locations throughout Washtenaw and Genesee counties, the program’s mission is to provide fully comprehensive school-based health programs and clinical services that improve the emotional and physical well-being of students, their families and communities.

School-based health care (SBHC) is a powerful tool for achieving health equity among youth who experience disparities in outcomes simply because of their race, ethnicity or family income. It is also common sense: place critically needed services like medical, behavioral, dental and vision care directly in schools so that all young people have an equal and equitable opportunity to learn and grow and their families have peace of mind knowing they can stay at work without losing wages and their children’s health and well-being are taken care of.

At all 17 RAHS school-based health centers, including the RAHS Mobile Unit, youth up to 21 years old receive high quality physical, emotional and preventive health care in an easily accessible, supportive and youth-centered environment from the professional staff of Michigan Medicine. Physicians, nurse practitioners, registered dieticians, licensed master social workers and medical assistants work together to be responsive to the needs of a diverse population.

These centers serve as an accessible place for students to receive fully comprehensive mental and physical health services during the school day, during the summer and over breaks. Virtual care visits are also available and have been a modality to reach patients during the pandemic.

The goal is to eliminate any barriers to care, eliminate gaps in services and to coordinate closely with primary care providers. Youth do not need to be registered students at these schools to receive health services and RAHS accepts insured and uninsured patients, regardless of ability to pay.

Preventative health care is essential for all children and adolescents, encouraging lifelong healthy behaviors, preventing illness, injury and disease, and providing anticipatory guidance. Routine childhood vaccinations are an important way to ensure that youth and communities remain healthy and protected against serious diseases, like measles and whooping cough. Not only does RAHS encourage youth and families to make sure they are up-to-date on routinely recommended vaccines, such as flu and measles, but RAHS also provides youth 12 and older with the COVID-19 vaccine. 

In 2014, RAHS partnered with the Kellogg Eye Center to open an eye center in the RAHS Ypsilanti Community High school-based health center location. Healthy vision is a foundation of children’s educational, social and extracurricular success. Problems with children’s vision have been shown to limit their lifelong success, but are correctable with early intervention and treatment.

RAHS expanded services in 2018 to include mobile dental and vision services in partnership with the Mott Children’s Health Center and the Kellogg Eye Center.

Research increasingly confirms that chronic oral and dental issues are linked to other physical health conditions. By establishing regular dental care for at-risk youth, their dental health and their overall health can be improved. The RAHS Mobile Unit removes access barriers by bringing dental and vision services to the schools.

In early 2019, RAHS introduced a Behavior Health expansion that included three new RAHS Behavior Health Hub Health Centers in Flint, Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor.

Mental health conditions do not discriminate based on race, color, gender or identity and anyone can experience the challenges of mental illness regardless of their background. However, background and identity can make access to mental health treatment much more difficult which is why RAHS prioritized youth mental health, acknowledging that it’s okay to not be okay.

Also in 2019, RAHS partnered with Michigan Medicine MedSport to open a MedSport health center in the RAHS Ypsilanti Community High SBHC.

Millions of young athletes across the country are treated for sports related or overuse injuries every year. Frequent or untreated injuries may lead to worse injuries with potentially lifelong chronic pain issues as children grow to adulthood. RAHS’ partnership with MedSport aims to address these sports and overuse injuries before they become lifelong.

Healthy Students make better learners. To learn more visit www.umhs-rahs.org

If you are interested in giving, please visit https://leadersandbest.umich.edu/find/#!/give/basket/fund/307977