It's a program that serves the health care needs of inner city high school students, many without family doctors. And a local group that includes Hamilton's school boards is taking to the internet to raise money to keep it going.

The School-Based Healthcare Network — which includes the public and Catholic boards, McMaster University's school of nursing and Hamilton's Centre for Newcomer Health — has set up an online fundraising page. Through the Aviva Community Fund, it hopes to win $100,000 through online voting to keep the Primary Care for At-Risk Youth initiative afloat.

Through the program, nurse practitioner Sue Grafe spends half a day per week in Sir John A. Macdonald and Cathedral high schools.

Grafe sees students with a range of ailments, from sprained ankles to complex mental health issues. Since the program began in May, Grafe has seen as many as 15 students during a four-hour shift. It's an important service in a school such as Sir John A. Macdonald, where one-third don't have family doctors.

"It's really important to get this funded because we've seen really high numbers," said Terri Bedminster, operations director at the Centre for Newcomer Health.

"It's scary the number of folks we've seen in such a short time, and the range of presentations they have. It really does confirm that the need is there and that we're bridging a huge gap."

The network has searched numerous places for funding, said Judith Bishop, network chair and a Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board trustee.

The program is funded by McMaster's school of nursing until the end of December. The group tried United Way, the Trillium Foundation and other grant sources. The ideal would be to get permanent funding through Hamilton's Local Health Integrated Network, Bishop said.

In the meantime, they're trying Aviva.

At the Aviva site, organizations that rack up the most votes advance through the levels until a winning program is funded. The local group has 11 days left to make it through the third qualifying round, which ends Nov. 26.

"Neighbourhoods with the 10 highest rates of psychiatric related emergencies are found in Hamilton's downtown core," the pitch reads. "Many of these residents have no family physician. The poorest and the least educated are those who, in general, are the biggest consumers of health care services."

Not all of the students who use the service are without doctors. But some feel they can't talk to their family doctors, Grafe said. Some have issues such as pregnancy or gynecological issues, while others are struggling with addiction, depression or anxiety.

Bishop is staying positive about the fundraiser.

"I'm sure we're going to raise the money because this is a fantastic project and it's so needed," she said. "If we're not successful with Aviva, we'll go on looking elsewhere."

Vote here for the Primary Care of At-Risk Youth initiative.