Family First Health is getting a $2 million boost to help strengthen its location at Hannah Penn K-8 and provide new health resources to the surrounding neighborhood.

The grant, provided by United Health Foundation, will be distributed over a period of three years and enhance existing services by creating a new wellness coach position and deploying “health connectors” to directly support neighborhood residents.

“One of our goals was to breathe new life into our school health center,” said Jenny Englerth, CEO and president of Family First Health. “We hope that these dollars can be leveraged to build on the assets that exist and meet residents’ needs to best improve health and wellness overall.”

The nonprofit health organization’s three-year plan will concentrate on the students and families who live in a 12-block radius of Hannah Penn, building relationships and providing resources to ensure families are taking steps toward improving their health.

Utilizing health connectors will be integral in making those connections, Englerth said, adding that these individuals will plan meetings with families to identify weak areas and come up with plans for improvement. 

Canvassing and “porch talks” will also be essential to letting families know these resources are available, Englerth said.

Teachers and school nurses will be important in promoting transparency about student and family health, having the task of reporting who might not be showing up to class as a sign for worry.

Two new staff members will be hired for the Hannah Penn site, Englerth said.

“We believe that one barrier is not being able to be as proactive as we would like and not seeing faces in the neighborhoods,” Englerth said. “This project reframes our work, and with this intensive resource we will be able to quicken the pace in change.”

While October is the official launch month for the project, Englerth said the initiative has been in the works since the start of 2020.

This project goes beyond traditional health by emphasizing mental health and housing issues as well.

Englerth cited lead exposure, mold and infestations as three major housing problems that could be affecting children’s health.

Educational resources will be provided to families who are identified as having those issues.

Additionally, other organizations, such as the York City Bureau of Health, will be working with Family First Health to coordinate meetings with families and help provide education about the resources available.

“There are so many things that come together to create a healthy environment,” Englerth said. “The greatest success metric for me is when a long-term staff member tells me the school feels healthy.”

— Reach Tina Locurto at tlocurto@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @tina_locurto.

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