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Mega Health Expo highlights CMSD's expanded healthcare services



Lavonna, an academically gifted senior at Glenville High School, is on track to graduate as her class valedictorian in May. She is joyously anticipating her future and is in a comfortable place mentally. It wasn’t always that way.

Lavonna recently recalled going through a challenging mental health crisis in January of 2022.

The deteriorating condition of her mental health that winter frightened her.

“It was a very dark period in my life. I won’t say I was seriously thinking about self-harm, but I know I was in a very vulnerable space and didn’t really know what to do,” she said.

Lavonna, who is 18 and legally permitted to speak publicly about her health experiences, told the CMSD News Bureau that she wanted to openly share her story because she believes there are many other CMSD students who have similar concerns and don’t realize help is available.

Lavonna, who moved back to her hometown of Cleveland in 2021 after spending time with family in Alabama, said she realized one day as she sat in a class that she needed to talk to someone about troubling thoughts that kept reoccurring.

“There is a teacher that I knew that I could trust. I knew that I could tell her what was going on in my mind,’” said Lavonna.

“Right after we started talking, the teacher said I have someone I need you to talk to. She took me to the school psychologist, which surprised me. I knew we had a school nurse, but I didn’t know we had a school psychologist.”

Lavonna said she spent at least two hours that day talking with Carla Jones, the school’s mental health specialist. She instantly knew she was in a safe place. She said that over the course of several weeks, she would meet regularly with Ms. Jones and unburdened herself, talking freely about issues stretching all the way back to her childhood.

“Ms. Jones is wonderful. She is a strong Black woman.  I could tell right away that she wasn’t judging me and really cared about what I was sharing with her,” said Lavonna.

Ms. Jones, who has been a CMSD psychologist for 25 years, is already an embedded part of the holistic healthcare services long offered by CMSD. Now, she is part of the Integrative Health Initiative (IHI), which continues to be phased into the district. IHI seeks to expand on the existing network of CMSD’s strong teams of internal school-based professionals, including school nurses, school psychologists, Say Yes family support specialists. The IHI was launched in 2019 and began to pick up steam at the start of the current school year. The aim is to be present for all students in their time of need.   

“We know that a student’s health affects their ability to learn and fully engage in school,” said Bernetta Wiggins, CMSD’s Executive Director of Integrative Health.

“With that in mind, the Integrated Health Initiative is committed to providing a primary healthcare provider as well as a behavioral healthcare provider in every CMSD school. And these services come at no charge to students or families,” said Executive Director Wiggins.

Thanks to funding from the Cleveland Foundation, the Gund Foundation and the generous support of MetroHealth Hospitals and other local healthcare providers, the Integrative Health Initiative is committed to expanding access to healthcare services for students, including physicals, immunizations, chronic disease management, mental health services and more.

“The goal is to build these services into the framework of each of CMSD’s 104 schools so that they will all become designated Integrated Health schools,” said Wiggins.

Public awareness of the expanded Integrative Health Services initiative will receive a major boost this weekend, when CMSD hosts its first Mega Health Expo at East Professional Center on Friday, April 28th, and Saturday, April 29th, from 10 am to 2 pm both days.

Health screenings will be available at the free event. Attendees will have a chance to speak with medical health professionals. Students interested in the healthcare field will have a chance to learn more from representatives from the Planning and Career Exploration Program (PACE).

“Breaking down silos that needlessly block an integrative approach to health care is our aim,” said Executive Director Wiggins. “We’re committed to continuing the expansion of healthcare services to all students, which will lead to better outcomes for them and their families,” she said.

Lavonna, who will soon wear the slash of a valedictorian for the Glenville Class of 2023, knows first-hand the value of CMSD healthcare services and wants her fellow students to know as well.

“They’re lifechanging,” said the CMSD scholar, who plans to attend an HBCU school in the fall.