School Health Liaison Program

SHLP logo - Copy

Gila County School Health Liaison Program Staff

 Welcome to the Gila County
School Health Liaison Program
"Start early and talk often,” says Gila County’s Health Programs Manager Nancy Rutherford. Connecting with students early and often to talk about health issues ranging from tobacco use to self-confidence is at the heart of Gila County’s School Health Liaison Program (SHLP).

“Gila County’s SHLP facilitators go into our schools and become another trusted adult in many children’s lives,” says District One Gila County Supervisor Tommie Martin. “They work with the schools to offer classes that are age appropriate and grow with the students.”

SHLP, which is funded by Arizona Department of Health Services, went live in schools in August 2015. By giving students the knowledge and tools to prevent communicable and chronic diseases, SHLP helps build a strong and healthy future for Gila County residents. “We’ll do whatever we can to get in front of the kids,” says Rutherford.

SHLP links public schools with public health in an effort to improve the efficiency and span of services available to Gila County residents.

SHLP has five School Health Liaisons: Jessica Palmer (Payson School District), Nicole Archibald (Globe School District), Janice Chesser (Pine/Strawberry, Young, and Tonto Basin School Districts), Taylor Perez (Miami School District) and  Taylor Perez and Nicole Archibald (Hayden School District, Liberty High, and Destiny School). Rutherford and her staff work with administrators to best serve the needs of each individual school, providing prevention classes during the school day.

SHLP has an exhaustive “menu” of classes that can be tailored to any grade level or issues the school might be dealing with at a particular time.

For example, an administrator could request a class on bullying if bullying has been coming up a lot at their school. While there is enough flexibility to pinpoint the best class topics for a particular school, SHLP facilitators all have consistent curriculum to draw from. High school students, for example, might receive smart driving and sexual health classes, while elementary school students might learn about hand-washing and nutrition. “We get kids to think healthy,” says Rutherford.

SHLP facilitates successful anti-tobacco clubs at Miami and Globe high schools. “It’s great to see students come together in our anti-tobacco clubs and display leadership skills that we help develop,” says Shaunae Casillas, SHLP’s former Tobacco Free Environments Program Lead. The anti-tobacco clubs help students educate others on the dangerous effects of tobacco use. “Our anti-tobacco clubs really empower students to become leaders in their communities,” says Rutherford. The students are encouraged to take on a project to affect change around tobacco use locally.

Another important area of focus for SHLP is our Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program. “Gila County’s teen pregnancy rate is the highest in the state,” explains Rutherford. Students begin learning about puberty in the fourth and fifth grade. In middle school, the curriculum focuses on confidence building, self-esteem, decision-making, assertiveness, and human anatomy. A noteworthy additon to our SHLP program is the Students Against Destructive Decisions Chapter (SADD) at Payson High School.

Deeadra Ursin-Zachary, former SHLP facilitator for the Payson School District says, “The biggest compliment I’ve received is ‘Miss Deeadra, thank you for telling us what we need to know to keep our bodies safe and thank you for making it ‘not creepy.’” Arizona state law requires boys and girls to be separated for sexual health education in grades eight and below. SHLP also obtains parent consent for students of all ages before providing sexual health education classes at any grade level. All SHLP sexual health educators receive state training and certification.

SHLP served over 3,000 Gila County students during the 2018-2019 school year. Rutherford is always proud when students approach her and SHLP staff after classes to thank them for making it easier to make healthy choices.

“We’re giving the students information that they not only need to know, but what they want to know,” says Rutherford.

Nancy Rutherford
Central Heights Complex
5515 S. Apache Ave Suite 100
Globe, AZ 85501
Globe: (928) 402-8517  
Outside of Globe area: 800-304-4452 Ext.8517