Lowell Elementary School is in the first phase of creating a school-based health center (SBHC) that would serve the needs of not only the school’s students and staff, but also the students’ families. The Capitol Hill EcoDistrict is working in partnership with Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic and Country Doctor Community Health Center to help make this clinic a reality at Lowell.
Lowell Elementary School is located in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle and is the assigned elementary school for all downtown homeless shelters. The resulting population of students is faced with many hardships, including a lack of access to health care.
Marina Gray, a community advocate and staunch supporter of the Lowell SBHC, has been working with school leadership for months to bolster efforts to create the clinic.
“Lowell serves a number of students who are in different phases of need – some are transitional, homeless, families that are experiencing trauma, students that have medically fragile conditions, and families in situations where they don’t have access to health care or consistent support,” Marina said. “So the idea was for Lowell to become a hub for them and to serve the needs of not only the students and their siblings, but also parents and guardians so that everyone has what they need to be healthy, emotionally and physically.”
In addition to treating students and their families, Lowell SBHC will also serve the staff of the school.
“It’s kind of a whole systems thing,” Marina said. “We know that students do better when the people around them are supported. If the students get services and support, but their families are in need and in trauma, then they’re less capable or less able to show up for the students in the way that they need to. If we support the whole system, including their educators, we have an opportunity for better outcomes for the children.”
While Seattle Public Schools as a whole are seeing a decrease in enrollment, Lowell is holding steady, with numbers that meet projections this year. The pandemic has had disproportionately devastating economic impacts on low-income folks, sending some into bankruptcy or homelessness.
“Lots of families are finding themselves in transitional housing, and the need is only going to go up from here,” Marina said. “This community is finding themselves even more impacted than most by the pandemic. So now more than ever, these are going to be people that don’t have access to healthcare, access to services, and they are newly finding themselves in homelessness. And that initial impact of homelessness is one of the most traumatizing experiences in a child’s life, then add to it doing it in the midst of a pandemic where you can’t be in a school building. We are going to need to be able to serve their social, emotional, and mental health needs as well as their physical health needs.”
Lowell has received funding from the Washington State Legislature, Kaiser Permanente and King County Public Health to help push the project forward, but the SBHC will need more support in the future to keep growing and expanding the services offered.
“How we show up for our most vulnerable community members is a real indicator of who we are as humans in our society, and I think that we really need to show up for our Lowell community at this moment, Marina said. “I think they’ve been neglected for far too long, and I feel like now is this moment of reckoning while we’re watching the lack of social infrastructure impact so many families.”
If you’re interested in helping out Lowell, Marina suggests getting involved with the PTA, engaging in volunteer opportunities, or supporting the school through donations – whether that be school supplies, food support, or monetary donations to support the clinic and the community. You can also advocate for the school district approval of a proposal to fund the remaining clinic construction costs by emailing the Seattle School Board stating your support. Email firstname.lastname@example.org and include “Lowell SBHC funding” in the subject line of your letter.
“I think as a community we need to lean in and support Lowell,” Marina said. “There’s a lot of folks who don’t actually know about the beautifully diverse community of learners that we are serving on Capitol Hill. We really need to show up for them and to create space for them to thrive.”