Health is a basic human need. When mental or physical illness strikes, we stop functioning at our full capacity. For students, the outcome is simple – if they are not healthy, they cannot meet their full educational potential. Poor grades, discipline problems, skipping classes, and even dropping out of school completely are often the results when students don’t get their mental and physical health needs met.

Today, Astoria schools have the tremendous opportunity to recognize that barriers to healthcare for our students are unacceptable. The proposed School-Based Health Center (SBHC) will bring access to healthcare to those who are currently underserved. In our county, more than 20 percent of children have no health insurance.

They have to seek care in the emergency room, where they cannot be turned away for lack of payment. This means that chronic conditions like asthma, and mental health issues like depression and thoughts of suicide, are only addressed when they have reached crisis level.

Twenty-eight percent of 11th graders at Astoria High School reported thoughts of suicide last year, 32 percent reported smoking marijuana and 43 percent reported drinking alcohol in the 30 days leading up to a Healthy Teens Survey. Mental health and substance abuse provide great challenges for students in school. SBHCs are uniquely positioned to help address those issues.

I was a teacher for 10 years at Astoria High School, and have now gone into the medical field. I will be graduating from the nursing program at Clatsop Community College this spring. These two paths have given me insight into both the education and health care field.

There are now 63 SBHCs in Oregon, all of which function with full support of the school administrators, who have come to see the improvement in their students’ well-being. Those who have opposed the SBHC have yet to bring forth a valid argument, and many keep disseminating the same misinformation.

I have just one question for this small but vocal opposition (“AHS health center draws opposition,”?The Daily Astorian, April 11): Why would you deny access to healthcare to anyone?

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