Portland Public Schools shifts focus to overall wellness

Benson Wellness Center - KATU image.jpg

As students head back-to-school, Portland Public Schools is doing everything they can to keep kids in class with new wellness services.

The goal of these wellness centers is to not take kids away from school, and to give them what they need to succeed.

From the outside it looks like what you might expect from a high school nurse's office, but the moment you walk in, it's much more than that.

“We want everyone to graduate we want everyone to do well,” Dr. Nancy Zink, Assistant Professor of Family Medicine at OHSU, said.

To help achieve that goal, PPS high schools are upping the resources.

“We help with everything from preventive, health, mental health, depression, anxiety, contraceptive,” Dr. Zink said.

The Wellness Center at Benson partners with OHSU.

In the center, you will find a nurse, a counselor, a medical doctor and even a social worker.

“Students come for so many different reasons we want to make sure that we can cover their needs,” Dr. Zink said.

The wellness center will treat any student; insurance and money is no concern.

“We are here, we are available, and we want to help,” Dr. Zink said.

Earlier this year, students in Multnomah County revealed in a survey one of their top concerns was mental health.

The wellness center is prepared for that.

“We screen everyone for depression, alcohol use, and substance use. We are open to whatever they tell us,” Dr. Zink said.

They also cover questions about suicidal thoughts and overall happiness in life.

“It’s really important that the student feels comfortable talking to us, if we know what’s going on we can help them,” Dr. Zink said.

That's when the real work starts, the doctor says.

“Our help ranges from a brief intervention need help with brief situation so have larger issues and need more counseling so they come throughout the year,” Dr. Zink said.

Wellness centers even have the ability to prescribe medication - if needed - or provide weekly counseling sessions should students.

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