Mental Health Intiative

Prioritizing Children’s Well Being

Viking Health Clinic, Jasper City Schools

Inspiration. Innovation. Collaboration.

These are all words that can be used to describe the Viking Health Clinic in Jasper City Schools, which launched during the 2022-23 school year. The clinic provides primary care and mental health services to students and employees on Jasper’s junior high / high school campus. The seed of this project was a 2016 collaboration between the Foundation, local school systems, and local health providers to explore bringing the school-based health model to our region.

“This model is in schools all over the country. The evidence shows it is associated with increased access to mental health and primary care services and improved health and academic outcomes,” says Gus Heard-Hughes, Senior Vice President, Programs. “We were encouraged by that.”

After a learning and planning period, Jasper City Schools and Capstone Rural Health Center made a commitment to launch the clinic. With $200,000 in funding provided equally between the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham and the Walker Area Community Foundation, the partners hired a full-time counselor, purchased office furniture and equipment, and launched the clinic in the fall of 2022.

Jasper City Schools has about 2600 students in K-12, and in just the last school year, the program provided 2043 sessions with 904 different patients. Of those visits to the Viking Health Clinic, 460 were for mental health  counseling. Superintendent Ann Jackson and the Board of Education recently recognized the Viking Health Clinic for a very successful pilot year serving the health needs of students and employees of Jasper City Schools.

“There is so much need in mental health across our country and so many things you could address from lack of providers to lack of funding, we have  chosen to focus where we could have the most positive effect – on children,” says Robin Sparks, the Foundation’s Mental Health Initiative Director.

“In making the initial investment, the Community Foundation was hopeful that the clinic would not only be able to sustain itself, but that it could be replicated in Walker County and a statewide, particularly in rural areas with limited health care access, because schools are one of the best places to give people access,” says Sparks. The program is awaiting the final approval to expand into Carbon Hill Schools in Walker County.

“I’m glad that as a foundation, we have had a sustained commitment to mental health because it is a growing community need. What we’ve done has evolved as the needs and priorities of the communities have evolved,” Heard-Hughes continues. “The opportunity to have Robin, who has so much expertise in this area, in this role has been really wonderful.”

“Following the model of the Community Foundation to build collaborations and to be present is how you learn, how you build programs, and how you overcome persistent issues and nurture communities,” says Sparks. “The Community Foundation always sets that good example.”

For more information about the Community Foundation’s Mental Health Initiative contact Robin Sparks