Bellevue students to access better health for better learning

ICHS puts counseling and health services in easy reach at Highland Middle School

An International Community Health Services (ICHS) clinic offered in partnership with Youth Eastside Services (YES) and the Bellevue School District is opening at Highland Middle School this fall. The school-based clinic promises to improve Bellevue teens’ school attendance, graduation rates and achievement, as it puts counseling and health services right in students’ midst.

Students will be able to see an ICHS health provider for treatment of illnesses, injuries and ongoing health problems; as well as for well child checkups and immunizations. YES’ therapists will help students with issues such as depression, anxiety, family stress and substance abuse.

“In bringing clinical services to students, ICHS, the Bellevue School District and YES are effectively removing barriers to care and creating greater health equity,” said Teresita Batayola, ICHS CEO. “This is especially important for Bellevue’s diverse community. When we take care of students’ social, emotional and physical wellbeing they are more focused and present for learning. Ultimately, students’ better health leads to better educational outcomes.”

These are fraught times for parents and teens. Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why, a TV-series depicting teen suicide, a distracted driving bill recently approved by Washington state, and a report in March from the American Academy of Pediatrics that warns against early marijuana use, underscore the rise in teen health risks. East King County is no exception.

According to the 2016 Healthy Youth Survey, nearly one in four of 6th and 8th graders in the Bellevue School District reported being bullied in the past 30 days, and 29% of 10th graders reported feeling depressed within the past year. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among teens between 15 and 24 years old in Washington.

“YES is eager to further deepen our long-term relationship with the Bellevue School District, forge our first formal partnership with ICHS, and integrate our work to meet the physical, mental health, and wellness needs of Eastside youth,” said David Downing, YES associate director. “Following a 10-year national trend, we have seen the same increase in stress, anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts among the youth we serve. Through this partnership at Highland Middle School, we will provide critical support for student success with an onsite, full-time and integrated team that will prevent and intervene with the many challenges students face today.”

Greater health equity keeps kids in school
Bellevue is a diverse city with large Asian and Hispanic populations, and with areas of high poverty. Highland Middle School reflects this diversity. More than 40% of the school’s students are eligible for free or reduced price meals.

ICHS’ multilingual and culturally aware staff and providers will help address acute challenges that include disproportionately high dropout and truancy rates among Highland Middle School’s Hispanic students.

In some areas of Bellevue, ethnic minorities make up more than 60% of the population. Asians represent the largest ethnic minority group, at 29% of the population, followed by Hispanics and Latinos, a group that increased nearly 50% between 2000 and 2010. One-third of Highland Middle School students speak a language other than English as their primary language.