A clinic of MGH Chelsea HealthCare Center at Chelsea High School helps students navigate injuries, illnesses, sexual health and mental health care.

At Chelsea High School, just past the cafeteria, students can connect with Massachusetts General Hospital at the school’s Student Health Center. A satellite clinic of MGH Chelsea HealthCare Center, it is run by nurse practitioner Jordan Hampton, MSEd, MSN, RN, CPNP.

The Student Health Center removes barriers by providing easy access and culturally competent care.

Established in 1990, the Chelsea High center is one of the oldest in Massachusetts. It’s a busy place. Students drop by for a diagnosis of strep throat, management of chronic illnesses and to learn about sexual health, among other things. Some get attached to Ms. Hampton and return to chat often.

Ms. Hampton has been helping Chelsea students navigate health issues for 18 years.

Each year there are about 1,100 student visits. As their nurse practitioner, with parent consent, she can perform comprehensive primary care including sports physicals, ordering lab tests and writing prescriptions, which is beyond the care that most school nurses can provide. She and two Mass General social workers, who also work at the center, provide mental health care for an additional 900 student visits annually for conditions such as anxiety and depression.

Mass General’s Community Focus

For Mass General, improving the health and well-being of the diverse communities it serves is a core mission. The school-based health center is one example of the community outreach Mass General and its Center for Community Health Improvement undertake in pursuit of that goal.

From the left, Liz Portnoy, school outreach worker; Jordan Hampton and Kate Vigil, lead school social worker.
From the left, Liz Portnoy, school outreach worker; Jordan Hampton and Kate Vigil, lead school social worker.

Many Chelsea families are dealing with poverty and working long hours. Some are immigrants and English is not their first language so getting to medical appointments can be difficult.

Having the health center in the school removes barriers by providing easy access and culturally competent care. And that care is not dependent on insurance status or whether students have a Mass General primary care physician.

Chelsea High School also has two nurses funded through the school. Their exam rooms are nearby and they frequently consult with Ms. Hampton.

Joan Quinlan, vice president of Community Health at Mass General, says the center’s value is its location and the quality of the care provided. “Having the center on school premises enables our staff to build relationships and trust with students,” Ms. Quinlan says. “That is key to identifying issues early on and providing follow-up care.”

Being on site helps the Student Health Center staff work closely with key players who keep kids safe such as guidance counselors, school social workers and administrators.

Support from Mass General through its Center for Community Health Improvement makes the student health center possible.

Student Health Center Creates Safe Space

Ms. Hampton teaches students how to advocate for themselves. After former student Isabel Martinez tore ligaments in her knee during a soccer game she could barely walk and needed surgery. Her father had trouble helping her with insurance issues and making appointments because he was not comfortable navigating the healthcare system. Ms. Hampton and Ms. Martinez made the calls together and Isabel was able to have her knee repaired. “Ms. Hampton gave my dad great peace of mind,” Ms. Martinez recalls.

Myah Johnston, now 19, sought out Ms. Hampton when she was a Chelsea student. She didn’t want to talk to her parents about sex but wanted to prevent a pregnancy. She decided to go to the Student Health Center for information about safer sex and birth control options. “It was super-helpful for figuring out what was best for me and my body and having an adult to talk to about anything and everything,” Myah says.

Teen pregnancy is one of the biggest risk factors for dropping out of high school. With that in mind, Ms. Hampton advocated for a school outreach worker dedicated to supporting teen parents. Together, the school outreach worker, Liz Portnoy, and Ms. Hampton work to increase the graduation rate among teen parents by helping them access resources and coordinating with teachers.

The Chelsea High Student Health Center team includes, from left, Wanda Vega, administrative assistant, Jordan Hampton and Hodan Mohamed, Mass General clinical social worker.
The Chelsea High Student Health Center team includes, from left, Wanda Vega, administrative assistant, Jordan Hampton and Hodan Mohamed, Mass General clinical social worker.

Ms. Hampton says the staff at the Student Health Center work to build trust with students and provide a safe space so they can help students who have experienced traumatic events, are using substances or are in unhealthy relationships.

How Philanthropy Can Help

Support from Mass General through its Center for Community Health Improvement makes the student health center possible.

But because the center is partially funded through the state and family-planning grants, remaining open is a concern, Ms. Hampton says. Philanthropy could help ease that worry and expand services.

Ms. Hampton would like to hire a community outreach worker to create a youth corps to get students excited about health topics and restart a group for teen moms and dads. One big dream is to create a student health center in Chelsea’s middle school.

“The resilience and strength of these students is just unbelievable,” Ms. Hampton says. “My job is to help them become more independent and live healthier lives.”

To learn more or make a donation to support Mass General community health programs like the Chelsea Student Health Center, please contact us.