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School health centers to grow

Two Columbia County school-based health centers will be upgraded thanks to a recently awarded $500,000 federal grant.

The two-year grant, awarded to the Columbia Health District, comes from the Affordable Care Act and will benefit the Rainier School District's Health Center and St. Helens' Sacagawea Health Center. Both will undergo improvements in order to expand their care. Construction is set to begin next summer.

Nearly 12 grants worth $4.2 million were doled out to school-based health centers in Oregon.

Rainier School Superintendent Michael Carter said the grant money will be used to add a new modular unit and improve the ability to perform exams and mental health therapy. This will double the size of the existing Rainier clinic. Without the school's clinic, Rainier residents would have to travel 60 miles for mental health services. At the Sacagawea Health Center, a second exam room will be built, which will improve disabled access, as well as facilitate mental health therapy.

The Affordable Care Act has allocated about $200 million from 2010 through 2013. There are over 1,900 school-based health centers across the nation, serving 2 million students. The Health Resources and Services Administration oversees the program.