The Health Center will expand its operations in Walla Walla schools with a new clinic to be based at Walla Walla High School this fall, officials announced Friday.

A nonprofit group’s first in-school clinic was established at Lincoln High School in 2009. More were added at Blue Ridge Elementary in 2012 and Pioneer Middle School in 2016. In all, the centers have served about 1,500 students with on-site, free physical and mental heath care.

Recent suicides here and national research have made a clear case establishing a center at Wa-Hi, Health Center board members said Friday in a news release. Much of the funding to make that happen comes from a 0.1 percent sales tax in Walla Walla County dedicated to mental health services, board member Gina Ohnstad said.

The health centers provide primary care, behavioral health services and care coordination. The centers also offer social connection and support, said Stan Ledington, executive director of The Health Center organization.

“The earlier we can get to students who are struggling, the more positive impact we can on their lives and their ability to learn,” he said

Including Wa-Hi is a move Walla Walla Public Schools Superintendent Wade Smith has been advocating. The importance of social and emotional well-being is a key component of the district’s strategic plan, according to the release.

“The Health Center has a proven track record in our district of delivering on these critical services which help address our state’s chronic absenteeism concerns in support of academic achievement,” Smith said in the release.

Planning for additional funding, staffing and other details is underway, Ohnstad said.

The Health Center reported on its website that its 2015-16 revenue was $418,703 in grants, contributions, donated services and other source. Expenses, including direct services, donated services, administration costs and other overhead, totaled $413,187.

Sheila Hagar can be reached at or 526-8322.

Sheila Hagar has written for the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin since 1998. Sheila covers education in the Walla Walla Valley. She also writes a column, Home Place, usually highlighting family life and slices of local life.