Rutgers/LEAP Health and Wellness Center Established

Gloria Bonilla-Santiago (center) cuts the ribbon on the new Rutgers/LEAP Health and Wellness Center with LEAP students.

Gloria Bonilla-Santiago (center) cuts the ribbon on the new Rutgers/LEAP Health and Wellness Center with LEAP students.

The Rutgers School of Nursing–Camden and the LEAP Academy University Charter School opened a new school-based health center on April 2 that will serve as a primary care facility for approximately 1,000 LEAP students and their families.

The Rutgers/LEAP Health and Wellness Center, located inside LEAP’s Lower School on Cooper Street, is being staffed by Rutgers University–Camden nursing faculty and offers basic primary care services, including vaccinations, immunizations, wellness exams, and physicals.

“This is a dream come true for us,” says Gloria Bonilla-Santiago, LEAP chair and a Board of Governors Distinguished Service Professor of Public Policy and Administration at Rutgers University–Camden. “We have a health and wellness clinic for this community, something that is critically important for these families, and we want this to serve as a way to educate our children and their families about leading a healthy lifestyle,” Bonilla-Santiago says.

School-based health centers not only enable children with acute or chronic illness to attend school and receive on-site care, but also improve their overall health and wellness through health screenings and disease prevention activities.

Joanne Robinson, dean of the Rutgers School of Nursing–Camden, says nearly 2,000 school-based health centers operate in elementary, middle, and high schools in 45 states, and most centers exist in urban communities where 70 percent of the student body comes from underserved populations.

“This is another breakthrough for southern New Jersey and for Camden,” Robinson said during a special grand opening of the Rutgers/LEAP Health and Wellness center. “For the Rutgers School of Nursing–Camden, this school-based health and wellness center at LEAP is a launching pad for faculty practice; for exceptional undergraduate and graduate clinical teaching; and for learning and research. We’re thrilled to be LEAP’s co-pilot in this endeavor.”

The new center offers a wide range of prevention programs targeting asthma, diabetes, and heart disease, as well as nutrition programs to promote healthy eating and prevent obesity. The Community Leadership Center at Rutgers University–Camden connects the health center to other support services including programs for parents, social services, and family support initiatives. Dyanne Westerberg, chair and chief of the Department of Family and Community Medicine at Cooper University Health Care, will serve as a collaborating physician for the center and medical director for the LEAP Academy.

“What makes us unique is that we’ll be immersed and embedded in this school community and we’ll be in a position to intervene in health issues early while giving tools to our students to allow them to make healthy choices,” says Nancy Pontes, director of the Rutgers/LEAP Health and Wellness Center and assistant dean of faculty practice at the Rutgers School of Nursing–Camden.

The center is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays until it becomes a fully state-licensed center this fall, when it will be open five days a week. It accepts Medicare, Medicaid, and most private insurance carriers. Uninsured patients can pay out of pocket and the center will help them apply for coverage through the Affordable Care Act.

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