The Children’s Aid Society has just opened its fifth health center at a public high school in Staten Island, NY. This isn’t just your typical nurse’s office. The health center addresses both the student’s physical and mental needs with a nurse practitioner, social worker, health educator, and even dentist on staff.

70% of the students at the high school live below the poverty line and may not be able to get quality healthcare otherwise. The program also helps keep kids in class by making trips to the doctor’s office unnecessary. For example, before the health center if a student had an asthma attack the school would have to call an ambulance, the student would leave school to go the emergency room, and their parent would leave work to take them home. Now when a student has an asthma attack, they simply go to the health center where the trained staff can give them a nebulizer treatment. The school then informs the parent, and the student can go back to class for the rest of the day.

Even though these health centers cost money to set up and run, in the long term they save money. By preventing ambulance rides and emergency room visits they “avoid tying up costly resources and reduce Medicaid expenditures.” Plus, they’ve been shown to reduce depression and pregnancy rates among students and improve self-esteem.

According to Beverly Colon, Vice-President for Health and Wellness at the Children’s Aid Society, “If we can get risk-taking teens through to the end of adolescence as healthy and well-equipped to learn, we have accomplished our main goal.”