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East Central Ohio Educational Service Center and Ohio Hills Health Centers awarded $3.3 million to open a school linked community based health center

Posted 04/05/24

Photo for East Central Ohio Educational Service Center and Ohio Hills Health Centers awarded $3.3 million to open a school linked community based health center

East Central Ohio Educational Service Center (ECOESC)  and Ohio Hills Health Centers will partner to open a school linked community-based health center in collaboration with Ohio University thanks to a $3.3 million grant as part of Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s ongoing investment in Ohio’s Appalachian communities.

The Appalachian Children’s Health Initiative, announced by Gov. DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, is a more than $64 million investment that includes dozens of projects to improve access to healthcare in 36 communities across 20 Appalachian counties in Ohio. It is the largest investment in school-based health services in the state of Ohio.

The ECOESC will work closely with Ohio Hills Health Centers to establish a community-based health center for students and community members. This health and dental center will accept most insurances including Medicaid. A Patient Discount Program and financial counselors are available to ensure health and dental care are affordable. OHHC will also collaborate with OUE to offer clinical rotations for nursing students and other medical professionals to provide essential workforce training. In addition, a centralized hub for health and wellness activities will be established. It is anticipated the community-based health center will open the summer of 2025.

“Our mission at the East Central Ohio Educational Service Center is to help students. This includes addressing the needs of the whole student, including increasing access to quality and affordable dental care services and primary care physician services,” remarked Randy Lucas, Superintendent of the East Central Ohio Educational Service Center. “I want to thank Governor DeWine for recognizing this need in Belmont County and acknowledge the Appalachian Children’s Coalition, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Ohio University, and Ohio Hills Health Centers for assisting with this initiative. Thanks to this Appalachian Community Grant Award, the East Central Ohio Community Resource Center will transform services to our students, their families, and the entire community.”

“We are grateful to Governor DeWine, his staff, the ECOESC, the Appalachian Childrens Coalition and Nationwide Children’s Hospital for their vision to establish a health and dental center which will reduce financial and transportation barriers for residents of Belmont County,” said Jeff Britton, CEO, OHHC.  “OHHC is committed to making health and dental care accessible and affordable. We look forward to working with the ECOESC and meeting the health and dental needs of area residents.”

The grant proposal was prepared by Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus on behalf of the Appalachian Children Coalition to improve children’s access to the care they need where they spend most of their time – in school. The new or expanded services, including primary care, behavioral health and preventive care, will reach nearly 375,000 youth, families and community members. Each project varies based on community needs.

“We appreciate Gov. DeWine’s commitment to the health of children in the Appalachian region and are excited to be able to lead the effort to bring local healthcare services to meet their needs,” said Randy Leite, PhD, executive director of the Appalachian Children Coalition. “For many children and families, the lack of access to local healthcare services leads to any number of negative health and educational outcomes. The school-based clinics and services to be developed as part of this program will provide  access that is so desperately needed. We share Gov. DeWine’s commitment to our children and know that our many partners in this effort do, too.”

Schools can play a critical role in improving a child’s health and well-being. More than 150 traditional school-based health center sites operate or are under development in Ohio, according to the Ohio School-Based Health Alliance. This project will open 16 new school-based health centers and school linked community-based health centers, along with mobile care services, behavioral health services, dental services and mobile vision services.

To ensure seamless implementation across the many projects, and sustained success of these efforts and investment, the project incorporates built-in technical assistance support from Nationwide Children’s. Nationwide Children’s operates 17 school-based primary care clinics in central Ohio and has partnered with the state of Ohio, healthcare providers, nonprofit funders, school nurses and school districts across the state to support the development of school-based health programs in over 38 mostly Appalachian counties.

“We know that children can reach their full potential in the classroom when they are healthy, live in a safe and stable environment, and have access to the resources they need,” said Mary Kay Irwin, EdD, senior director of school health services for Nationwide Children’s. “By partnering with schools, we are helping many children access important care they would otherwise not receive. If we want to improve health outcomes for all children, we must work together and meet families where they are.”

This unprecedented $64 million investment in school-based and community health is part of the state’s $500 million “OhioBuilds – Small Communities – Big Impact – A Plan for Appalachia” community grant program announced in 2022. The program is administered by the Governor's Office of Appalachia within the Ohio Department of Development.


About School District:
The East Central Ohio Educational Service Center provides services to 21 school districts within its service region. The ECOESC service region consists of Tuscarawas, Carroll, Harrison, Guernsey, and Belmont Counties, making it one of the largest ESCs in the state of Ohio. ESCs are dedicated to provide school districts with professional development, technology, support, planning, and administrative services that help improve student learning, enhance the quality of instruction, and expand equitable access to resources and maximize operating and fiscal efficiencies.

About Healthcare Partner:
Ohio Hills Health Centers is a non-profit, Federally Qualified Health Center, whose mission is to provide affordable and accessible health, dental and behavioral health care for all area residents, but particularly the underserved. OHHC accepts patients, regardless of their insurance status or ability to pay. OHHC offers a Patient Discount Program and has financial counselors available to assist patients with Medicare, Medicaid, and Marketplace applications.

About Appalachian Children Coalition:
The Appalachian Children Coalition (ACC) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to enhancing the health and well-being of children across Ohio's 32-county Appalachian region. Driven by a mission to uplift children's lives through collaborative advocacy and strategic investments, ACC has forged impactful partnerships since 2020. These partnerships have enabled the redirection of resources toward a robust support infrastructure tailored to the region's unique child needs. ACC's initiatives focus on behavioral health workforce development, prevention education, school-based health services, and regional responsiveness, comprehensively addressing the diverse needs of children in the communities it serves. Operating as advocates for those serving children, ACC remains resolute in ensuring every Appalachian Ohio child has equitable access to resources for holistic development and well-being.

About the grant:
The Appalachian Children’s Health Initiative proposal was prepared by Nationwide Children’s Hospital on behalf of the Appalachian Children's Coalition. It is a $64 million grant to support school or community-based healthcare services. The Appalachian Children Coalition will serve as the project administrator, and Nationwide Children’s will serve as the project adviser.

About Nationwide Children’s Hospital:
Named to the Top 10 Honor Roll on U.S. News & World Report’s 2023-24 list of “Best Children’s Hospitals,” Nationwide Children’s Hospital is one of America’s largest not-for-profit free-standing pediatric health care systems. Nationwide Children’s is home to the country’s most robust school health services program. Nationwide Children’s has partnered with the state of Ohio, healthcare providers, nonprofit funders, school nurses and school districts across the state to support the development of school-based health programs in over 38 mostly Appalachian counties. Nationwide Children’s has a staff of more than 14,000 that provides state-of-the-art wellness, preventive and rehabilitative care and diagnostic treatment during more than 1.7 million patient visits annually.