Summit Middle School students and staff appreciate Christie Miller
Ryan Summerlin May 11, 2014
School Based Health Centers
The Summit School Based Health Centers provide primary care, oral health and behavioral health services to students, staff and their family members. Four centers bring the doctor’s office to the schools, with clinics at Dillon Valley Elementary, Silverthorne Elementary, Summit Middle School and Summit High School.
Health care providers work for the Summit Community Care Clinic and promote combining all medical visits — sports physicals, vaccines and check-ups — into one annual visit for every child.
The first center opened about 20 years ago at the high school, which now offers primary care services about 20 hours a week. The middle school center provides eight hours of primary care weekly, and both elementary schools offer four hours a week.
Director Erin Major said the number of students using the centers’ behavior health services is growing. “That’s not a good thing,” she said. “We’re sad kids need that. But we’re here.”
Patient navigators also partner with the Family and Intercultural Resource Center (FIRC) to help enroll low-income children and pregnant women who don’t qualify for Medicaid in a public insurance plan called Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+).
The four centers accept all kinds of insurance and see uninsured people for a small, sliding-scale fee.
For more than a decade, Christie Miller has brought together food, health and a passion for Summit middle schoolers.
Miller, 58, of Dillon, works in the Summit Middle School clinic and manages the School Based Health Center there.
An Illinois native, Miller started working for the school district 17 years ago at Dillon Valley Elementary, when her son was a fifth-grader there, before moving with him to the middle school. For the last 14 years, she has been the first face students and staff see when they walk into the clinic.
“She’s well loved by the kids,” said Erin Major, 54, director of the Summit School Based Health Centers.
When Miller visited the high school recently, a few teens greeted her with big hugs. She loves that her relationship with students “doesn’t seem like it stops after they leave.”
From lost teeth to teen pregnancies, she never knows what she might help students with on a given day. She has learned everything on-the-job, she said, and one of the most challenging situations has been seizures.
“Nothing else really scares me,” she said. “I don’t mind blood, broken bones.”
In early May, Miller won an award from the Colorado Association of School Based Health Centers for being an outstanding school health professional. Major, who has known Miller since their now-adult daughters went to school together, nominated Miller for going above and beyond her duties.
Miller has created a warm, welcoming environment in the clinic, and she is the link between counselors, behavior health therapists, medical providers and school staff.
She knows when to pull students out of class for appointments so teachers don’t get mad. She coordinates vaccination days, schedules and explains medical visits to parents, and during her time off she often volunteers at sports and other extracurricular events.
She also championed a school breakfast program that became a reality in 2012, with a full breakfast served every morning for students.
About 10 years ago, Miller and a handful of other school staff members started bringing juice and granola bars for hungry kids who rushed to school or whose parents didn’t or couldn’t feed them.
She would have the food waiting for them, Major said. “It just touched my heart.”
Later, Miller brought bagels and breakfast sandwiches and used the sales money to sponsor students on field trips or to help teachers who got sick.
Now she still helps serve meals in the cafeteria every day. Principal Joel Rivera said he doesn’t eat before school because he knows Miller will bring him breakfast leftovers.
Miller has taken his kids to the movie theater, he said. With her two children grown, “I think she misses having an excuse to go to the Disney movies.”
He loves popping into the clinic to catch up with her, he said, and because “she’s got the Almond Joys.”
When students stop by, it’s often in small groups of friends. After lunch Thursday, May 8, three girls walked into Miller’s clinic. One asked for a physical form, one requested a bandage. “And I don’t need anything,” the third girl said.
Sometimes healthy kids wander in, students who seem physically fine. Maybe they crave one-on-one time with a caring adult. Maybe they want a break for a few minutes in a comfortable, safe space.
If a student walks in at the same time every week, Miller said she’ll ask if he or she wants to talk with a counselor, and the kids usually take her advice. Miller said she connects most with the ones who need a little something.
Middle school can be a weird place, with students maturing mentally and physically at different times. Miller said she loves the age group because the kids are goofy and she can be goofy right back.
“I laugh a lot,” she said, and she feels for the ones who struggle.
But it’s not just the kids she comforts.
“Anytime I’m feeling down,” Rivera said, “I’ve stopped in the clinic before just to say hi, and I always walk out of there feeling better.”
Rachelle Wagoner, 44, who also works in the clinic, said two or three kids wait for Miller and follow her down the hall into the clinic every morning.
And Miller always has good music playing, Wagoner said. The clinic gets quiet when she turns it off and leaves.