WASHINGTON -- Some Montgomery County schools now offer students and their families health care services.
Nine school-based health centers are operating in the county in partnership with the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services.
"Not only is the health center open for the children, but also for the families of the children," says Michaele Simmons, principal of Weller Road Elementary School in Silver Spring, Md.
At Weller Road elementary, the health center is located in a wing that also provides social services to families through the Linkages to Learning Program. The program addresses academic, social, emotional and health care needs all in one place.
"Our parents don't necessarily know how to access services but now, they have individuals to help guide them through the process," Simmons says.
Linkages to Learning case managers in 28 Montgomery County schools offer families help with myriad issues, including food, housing, help getting a job or furnishing a home, computer training and assistance with citizenship or immigration issues.
"We have lots of resources, but we also have lots of needs," says Montgomery County Schools Superintendent Joshua Starr. "In order for our kids to be successful academically, you need to make sure they're healthy of mind and body. We try to do that in Montgomery County."
Linkages to Learning does more than help families with basic needs.
It also links gifted children with resources their families might not know about otherwise, such as acceleration programs in math or science -- helping kids go to engineering camp, for example. The program also sponsors fun activities for children such as summer camps, field trips and after-school recreation.
Linkages to Learning is a collaborative effort of the Mental Health Association, Montgomery County schools and the county Department of Health and Human Services.
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