As Eastern Hills Elementary Principal Whitney Darden believes, student success goes beyond academic achievement. In order for students to succeed, they need to have all their needs met — including health.
But it’s a challenge for students to receive accessible pediatric care in east Fort Worth, said Darden.
A new partnership between the Fort Worth ISD and the University of North Texas Health Science Center hopes to resolve the health disparity.
The Fort Worth ISD school board voted Tuesday to approve a partnership with the medical center to open a clinic at Eastern Hills Elementary.
Through the agreement, UNT HSC will start providing mental and behavioral health services to students starting in the next few months. Health workers from the medical center will staff the clinic, working alongside Eastern Hills’ counselors and social workers who will refer students in need of care after securing parental permission.
Eastern Hills Elementary currently serves 467 students.
The clinic will be located in a portable classroom outside the school. Still, the district will own and maintain the space.
UNT Health Science Center partnered with Eastern Hills Elementary after conducting an analysis of Fort Worth that indicated a deficit of behavioral pediatric care, said Noah Drew, associate vice president of special projects at UNT HSC.
For students who live in the 76112 ZIP code, the nearest pediatric care facility is Cook Children’s neighborhood clinic on Miller Avenue — which is almost 4 miles away from Eastern Hills.
The medical center’s pediatric mobile clinic, which offers free health care to children, has made visits to the neighborhood over the years. Still, those stops aren’t enough to meet the needs, said Drew.
“We looked and it became apparent the specific need for behavioral health services in the area,” Drew said. “It’s a solution to create a healthier Fort Worth.”
Eastern Hills Elementary was previously one of four Fort Worth ISD schools that hosted a clinic through a partnership with JPS Health Network. In 2021, the hospital district closed its school-based clinics and directed students and families to JPS locations and Cook Children’s facilities across Tarrant County.
By establishing a new clinic, the school is able to fill a void for families that had been left for a few years, said Darden.
“It really is the hard work of people on this campus, people in our school district and UNT Health Science Center coming together,” she said. “It’s been a long journey.”
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