Hilsman Health Clinic set to open in October

Hilsman Middle School has a brand new building, but that is not all that is new in the Hilsman/Gaines community. A School-Based Health Clinic is being built in the back of the Hilsman gym between Hilsman Middle and Gaines Elementary schools. It is set to open sometime in October 2019, but the date is not yet set.

This clinic will include more than standard school services, including services from a doctor or a nurse practitioner, a dentist, and mental health professionals. Another unique feature is that it will serve both students and staff from Hilsman and Gaines. The clinic will take most types of insurance while offering flexibility to families who do not have insurance.

Healthy Hilsman: Construction progresses in the back of the Hilsman Middle School gym, transforming the old locker rooms into a full clinic. “You can see where they are planning on putting the exam rooms and how it’s gonna be a waiting room, because it’s still a gym, and the clinic is going to be behind the gym,” said Hilsman Nurse Caity Kurish. Photo by Tory Ratajczak.

The facility will be staffed by The Athens Neighborhood Health Center and Advantage Behavioral Health Systems. The Piedmont Athens Regional Foundation is funding the equipment and startup supplies.

“We have a lot of medical needs in our community that are not seen otherwise. Sometimes we’ll see a kid here and we don’t know whether or not they go to the doctor. Lots of doctor’s offices need insurance, and a lot of our families don’t have it. A benefit of the school-based health center would be the school nurse knowing that the student is going to get seen and get the services that they need,” said Caity Kurish, the Hilsman school nurse. 

Kurish will not be working in the facility but will work alongside it by referring students for treatment options.

Staff, faculty, and students have acknowledged the need for this facility in the community.

“A lot of our students have various obstacles to jump over to get access to good health care. Whether it’s affordability issues, transportation issues, this removes a lot of those barriers. I think making sure that we’re all healthy is really sort of like that baseline need that needs to be met for every student,” said Mr. Conor Naughton, 8th-grade math teacher.

This new addition will also bring mental health services to the schools 

“The mental health component is what I’m most excited about because it doesn’t get talked about a lot. We have a lot of students in particular at Hilsman who are dealing with some really rough things. Whether that is as a family unit or with friends or typical teenage things or not typical teenage things, they need a lot of assistance that we just can’t give them in a school day,” said Hilsman Instructional Coach Mrs. Meganne Skinner.

Kira Law, an 8th-grader at Hilsman, believes the clinic will offer more convenience for students.

“I think it’s going to really benefit all of us because it’s just going to make it easier to give everybody a chance to get their grades up without having to worry about the mental health and all the other physical stuff,” said Law.

Hilsman Principal Ms. Capucina Douglass believes that the School-Based Health Clinic will have a positive impact.

“Anytime you have wraparound services to meet the academic, emotional and social aspects of the students, they’ve created a format that addresses the full list of needs of students. It’s brilliant, it’s amazing. It’s a powerful concept. It doesn’t get any better than that,” Douglass said.

Douglass believes that the facility will be well worth the effort and expense. 

“It’s a testament to how committed our district is to serve the holistic needs of the students at Hilsman and Gaines. Anytime you invest in the lives of children, it’s always worth it. Children are our greatest commodity on earth. It’s worth it,” Douglass said.