Reporting on health and quality of life in South LA

Locke High School joins list of South LA schools with on-campus health centers

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The Watts Healthcare Corporation opened its second school-based clinic in three weeks on Thursday morning at Locke High School in South Los Angeles.

Officials marked the grand opening of Locke School Wellness Center, which is located on the Green Dot charter high school's campus and will provide free health care to both students and residents of the surrounding community.

Thursday's grand opening was largely ceremonial; the center is expected to open for business within a couple of months.

On April 11, Watts Healthcare Corp. opened a similar wellness center at Jordan High School. William Hobson, Watts Healthcare Corp.'s president and CEO, said the architects who designed Locke's center did a "fabulous job in terms of making a nice space."

"When you have a place that looks really good and has a good feeling to it, it makes it a more attractive place for the teenagers in school to go to," he said. "Something that looks real good and has new facilities exudes a sense of confidence in the services [it provides]."

And while Hobson said as a health care professional, he judges a place by the quality of care it provides, he knows that's not a general rule.

"A lot of people in the general public judge a health care facility by how it looks and how it appears," he said.

The center will provide primary medical care services – preventive health, well child and adolescent care, family planning, episodic care – as well as primary dentistry: cavities, teeth cleanings, evaluations for conditions like oral cancer and restorative procedures.

Maryjane Puffer, the executive director of the L.A. Trust for Children's Health, was present at the grand opening and said that dental care is especially important.

"Dental pain is the number-one reason why kids miss school," she said. "And these are wellness centers on campus, so the mission of the school and the mission of the clinic need to be married, and it is married when we are talking about saving student attendance days."

Puffer said it was "literally a no-brainer" to subsidize dental services at Locke. The L.A. Trust is one of the main drivers of the school-based health movement descending upon South L.A.: It's heading up the effort to develop 14 school-based wellness centers, most of them on L.A. Unified School District campuses, by 2014.

In addition to the primary medical and dental care, there will also be mental health services and space for wellness activities, health education and exercise groups. All three operations will be based on the second floor of Locke's early education building.

Dr. Oliver Brooks, Watts Healthcare Corp.'s medical director for school-based wellness centers, said the clinic's hours are still to-be-determined, but will "mesh" with Locke High School's hours.

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