Community Wellness Center Opens at Fallon Park Elementary School | Local News

City school officials held a grand opening Thursday for a new community wellness center at Fallon Park Elementary School in southeast Roanoke.

The LIFT Center, which stands for “Local Impact for Tomorrow,” will provide pediatric, dental, mental health, and educational services to students and their families.

School superintendent Verletta White said the center was slow to come to an area that needed more services and access to health care.

“That’s what we mean by supporting the whole child,” White said. “Children have a better chance of being in school, staying in school, succeeding and thriving in school when their health and well-being are taken into account.”

The Carilion Clinic, Freedom First Credit Union, Delta Dental of Virginia Foundation and other donors contributed nearly $1 million to build the 1,700 square foot addition to the school.

The coalition’s original plan was to open the center at the start of the 2020-2021 school year alongside renovations to Fallon Park Elementary, which began in early 2018 and was completed approximately two years later.

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Private donations were supposed to cover the entire project, but construction bids were higher than expected and the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the schedule. The school system contributed $320,000 to construct the building envelope. Over $400,000 in private donations were used to build the interior.

Inside the new center are a waiting room, a conference room and several examination and counseling rooms. Students can access the clinic during the day and families and neighbors can access services in the evening.

Shirley Holland, vice president of planning and community development at the Carilion Clinic, said the group had set up a parents and guardians committee and also conducted surveys to determine which services are most needed.

The center will provide financial education and possibly job training. More services may be added in the future as needs change and new partners join, Holland said.

For medical services, providers will bill the patient’s insurance or Medicaid. If someone does not have insurance, the staff is ready to work with them to ensure their care is covered. Non-medical services such as financial education will be funded from the coalition fund.

A nurse practitioner will be based at the clinic, and telemedicine will help fill in the gaps where a doctor is needed, Holland said.

Southeast Roanoke was selected for wellness center after Carilion’s community health assessment identified issues with access to care, lower income and education levels, chronic illnesses higher, substance abuse and mental health issues.

“We felt compelled to do more as a neighbor because it’s in the backyard of our biggest hospital,” Holland said. “We consciously started to think about how we could be helpful.”

She said the project began years ago when school officials saw an opportunity to do something untraditional with the newly renovated Fallon Park Elementary School. More and more models of school health are evolving across the country as people recognize the link between academic achievement and health.

“School is more than school,” White said. “The school is the center of the community. If we can support the family, we naturally support the children who are in the family. We want to make sure we meet the needs of all our learners.