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Mercy, Guidance Center Partner on FSPS Health Center

Health Center Serves Students, Families at Fort Smith Public Schools  

Joint effort between Mercy, Western Arkansas Guidance Center opened Aug. 4 

In an effort to address the physical and mental health needs of local students and their families, Mercy Fort Smith and the Western Arkansas Guidance and Counseling Center have teamed up on a health center based at Fort Smith Public Schools. 

Mercy Clinic Family Medicine - North H Street is located between Darby Middle School and Tilles Elementary School and will serve students in the Fort Smith Public School District and their families along with the district’s staff members. 

The school-based health center will provide physical health services as well as prevention and wellness education through Mercy Clinic. Emotional and mental health services will be provided by the Western Arkansas Counseling and Guidance Center.  

Heather Erwin, advanced practice nurse with Mercy Clinic, will provide care at the clinic, along with physician collaborator Dr. Kendall Wagner. Erwin, along with Medical Assistant Kaitlyn Grissman and Patient Service Representative Samira Black, saw the first patient at the clinic on Wednesday, Aug. 4.  

Darby and Tilles family members residing with the student as well as school staff and their families are eligible for services through the center. Students can use any service at the center after a parent or guardian completes and signs the registration forms. 

Plans for the school-based health center were developed in 2020 and supported by a grant from the Arkansas Division of Elementary and Secondary Education, school officials said.  

“We are very excited about serving students, staff and families,” said Kerri Tucker, school-based health center coordinator with Fort Smith Public Schools. “All three partners will be working together on a shared goal. We want a healthy school community so students are successful in the classroom and beyond.”    

Mercy sees the clinic as a chance to provide easier access to health care for students and their families in the school district. 

“This opportunity to serve the health needs of those who may be underserved is in line with Mercy’s mission,” said Kay McCarley, director of operations at Mercy Clinic Fort Smith. “The joint effort between Mercy, The Guidance Center and Fort Smith Public Schools presented a unique opportunity to reach local students and families and help provide the care they needed. We are pleased to be a part of this collaboration and look forward to serving the needs of the school district for years to come.” 

The Western Arkansas Counseling and Guidance Center will provide services such as mental health awareness; outreach including suicide prevention; screening for depression, anxiety, substance abuse and other mental health conditions; and behavioral health care including assessment, treatment, referral and crisis intervention, individual, group and family therapy, qualified behavioral health provider services, and social service assessment, referral and follow-up as needed. 

"We are excited about this collaboration with Fort Smith Public Schools’ new health center,” said Marla Kendrick, chief operations officer with The Guidance Center. “Having students and staff able to receive the mental health care they need on campus reduces so many barriers. Allowing students to learn with unnecessary interruptions in their classroom time is so important. This also allows for students to receive services in a safe, convenient and accessible way." 

Kendrick added that The Guidance Center partners with six other school-based wellness centers for behavioral health services in the area. 

Services provided by Mercy at the new center may include but are not limited to: 

  • Routine physical exams, including sports physicals.
    • Diagnosis and treatment of acute and chronic illness.
    • Treatment of minor injuries.
    • Vision, hearing and medical screening.
    • Age-appropriate reproductive health services with parent approval (abstinence counseling, education, exams and referrals).
    • Limited immunizations.
    • Laboratory testing.
    • Health education, counseling and wellness promotion.
    • Nutrition education and weight management.
    • Telemedicine.
    • Prescription medications.
    • Classroom presentations.
    • Referrals for services not provided at the School-Based Health Center.

Eligible students and families also can be treated for a variety of other illnesses, such as flu or strep throat and chronic conditions, including asthma and diabetes. 

Hours for the center are 8-11 a.m. Monday-Thursday and 7:30-11 a.m. Friday. If a student becomes ill while at school, access to the center will be through the school nurse. Family members of a student or staff and staff members may contact the center to schedule an appointment by calling 479-784-8131.