‘Go To ’Cats’ promoting SBHC
Houghton Lake High School’s School Based Health Center has among its assets a group of high school students, recently dubbed Go To ’Cats, who are promoting the center. Marking February as School Based Health Center Awareness Month in Michigan and nationally, the eight members, who are users of the center, met Feb. 17 in the center and received their new T-shirts.
The group consists of Chris Sura, Christina Penfield, Alex Decker, Ashley Gillman, Patrick “Ricky” Stanislawski, Samantha Herriman, Breanna Tribelhorn and Emilee Garrett. SBHC Coordinator Tracy Wilson said the Go To ’Cats meet at the center monthly to discuss a variety of health topics and act as “peer mentors” for their classmates.
“They let us know what’s on kids’ minds,” Wilson said.
Some of the topics they discuss, the students said, are suicide prevention, drugs and alcohol, teen pregnancy and bullying.
Wilson said the Go To ’Cats, originally under a different name, have been associated with the center since it was established in the school. (The former name of the group was the Youth Advisory Council, but the Roscommon County Community Foundation also has a YAC.)
The students can advocate for use of the center, she said, adding, “They give us feedback on issues to make sure our services are addressing their needs.”
The Go To ’Cats offered reasons why they became involved with the SBHC.
Sophomore Ricky Stanislawski said he has participated as a youth council member since the start of the year.
“I want to make things better,” he said.
Senior Emilee Garrett said she has been providing programs at the elementary level and likes to help out at the high school.
“I like getting involved with the community,” she said.
Junior Chris Sura said when students use alcohol or get drunk, “it bugs me.” He said he knew Ryan McDonald, a nine-year-old killed by a drunk driver in October 2006, and his mom had a friend who was killed by a drunk driver. He added that the center is a “safe place” kids can come to talk to someone.
Among the problems the students would “fix” if they could are alcohol and drug use, obesity and sexually transmitted diseases. In fact, the topic for the February meeting was Sexually Transmitted Infections and the students could take fold-out cards featuring information on how STI’s are spread and how to protect yourself.
Wilson said the Go To ’Cats can tell other students about “what we can and can’t do” at the center. Per state law, the center is not allowed to provide birth control or abortion counseling. No Xrays or ultrasounds can be done in the center, she said.
Students can be treated for sore throats, viral and upper respiratory infections and sports injuries, among other things. Free sports physicals are offered seasonally.
“There are only six absences allowed [from class],” Sura said. “It helps you can just come here.”
Directed by SBHC Director Carissa Bonner, MS, CPNP, the center also has on its staff Angela Wallace, certified medical assistant (CMA Kris Metevia is on medical leave). Nicole Bruce is the mental health counselor and Renee Britvec, RN, is the outreach nurse.
While the office is located in the high school, its target audience is 10 to 21-year-olds.
Bonner said the current center has one exam room and spoke about the new SBHC that is expected to be built this summer on the campus, in between Houghton Lake Middle School and the high school.
“We [currently] serve mostly high school students,” she said. “Most parents don’t want their kids walking across the parking lot.”
The center is open until 3 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday and until 3:30 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday. Appointments may be scheduled, but walkins are welcomed (with teacher permission).
Wilson said an Advocacy Day is set for March 13 in Lansing when Go To ’Cat students will be able to meet with legislators. She said the SBHC is funded by the Michigan Department of Community Health and the Michigan Department of Education and competes for grants on a four-year cycle. Houghton Lake’s SBHC has two years to complete the new building.
Parents may call the center for information at 366-2061.