SPANAWAY, Wash. -- Madigan Army Medical Center expanded its roster of school-based health clinics with a kick-off event at the Bethel Learning Center Sept. 11 to celebrate the opening of clinics at Bethel High School and Bethel Middle School. The ribbon cutting capped a ceremony for the National Day of Service and Remembrance that observes the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

"The classroom is the waiting room. That is a totally novel concept," said Madigan Commander Col. Thomas Bundt.

Speaking to the students in the audience, Bundt noted that bringing a Madigan provider and staff into a school clinic means, "less absentees, better performance, better health outcomes and better sustainment of you -- physically, emotionally and mentally -- as you traverse the journey through education."

Bundt also focused his remarks on serving the area's military children.

Calling it a pleasure to give back to the community by bringing care to these patients, Bundt thanked the Madigan team behind the effort and Bethel School District Superintendent Tom Seigel as well.

"I want to thank Mr. Seigel for his invitation and incredible generosity in giving us a place to work," said Bundt. "This is a very rare instance where the organizations reach out to us, offer us a place to work, where we can reside in that same facility. I find that incredibly generous -- an honorable component of this model."

John Manning, president of the board of directors of the Bethel School District recognized first responders and military men and women, and U.S. Representative Denny Heck gave the keynote address as part of the observance ceremony.

Following Bundt's words to the crowd, all three were joined by Seigel, Washington State Representative Andrew Barkis, other members of the school board and Madigan staff in cutting the ribbon on Madigan's school-based health clinics in the district.

Joining schools in the Clover Park, Steilacoom and Puyallup school districts, Bethel High School and Bethel Middle School's military beneficiary students can now access care in their schools by medical and administrative professionals in the school-based health system who specialize in taking care of teenagers. Students can be seen for acute, minor and chronic illnesses, sports physicals, immunizations, and to manage long-term medications such as those for asthma and allergies.

All active-duty or retiree dependent students at Bethel High and Bethel Middle enrolled in the Defense Enrollments Eligibility Reporting System are eligible for school-based health care services. More information and forms can be found at bethelsd.org/madigan.

Bethel's schools became the eighth and ninth in Madigan's school-based health system, and the district becomes the fourth district in the system. In October, North Thurston School District will officially open its first clinic.

Beginning with Steilacoom High School and Pioneer Middle School in the Steilacoom Historical School District in 2012, the school-based health system has repeatedly won awards and grants to continue and expand its program. Upon completion of expansions planned for 2018, the system will have 11 schools and offer 4,450 eligible students access to care in their schools.