School-based clinic in works for GU

Kate O'Donnell, left, of the Public Health Division in Portland speaks with local family nurse practitioner Karen Triplett and Linda Watson.

JOHN DAY – A school-based health center to serve Grant County students in grades 7-12 is in the planning stages.

Details are being worked out, but the health center could open at Grant Union Junior-Senior High School this fall.

The center will be run by Community Counseling Solutions, which also runs the Grant County Health Department. CCS has a $60,000 grant from the Oregon Public Health Division to start up the project.

The plan was outlined at an April 16 meeting that drew about 18 people to Grant Union’s library.

Debi Hueckman of Grant County Safe Communities Coalition gave a PowerPoint overview of the project, saying the health center will “bring health care to the adolescents.”

She said good health is linked to the ability to learn, and healthy behaviors learned through the center could carry over to adulthood.

Karen Triplett, CCS’ family nurse practitioner at county health department, chairs the committee that is spearheading formation of the health center. The project has garnered support from the Grant County Court, the Grant School District No. 3 school board, Grant Union Principal Curt Shelley, Blue Mountain Hospital officials and medical providers, she said.

Plans call for the health center to operate three days a week in the school building. The staff will include Triplett for four to six hours, a registered nurse six hours, and a CCS mental health counselor six hours a week.

The services offered will include:

• Routine physical exams, including sports physicals.

• Early detection, diagnosis and treatment of illness and injury.

• Vision, dental and blood pressure screenings.

• Immunizations.

• Mental health services.

• Routine lab tests.

• Prescriptions for medications.

• Health education, counseling and wellness promotion.

• Referrals for health care services not provided at the health center.

Organizers said services will be free to uninsured students, but the center will bill insurance and collect co-pays just as other medical offices do. They expect the program to be self-sustaining in three years.

Triplett said she has worked in school-based health centers in Toledo and Lincoln City.

The advantage, she said, is students don’t lose a lot of class time – “which they liked, kind of” – to seek care.

She said she hopes the center at Grant Union eventually can serve grade school students.

Parents who don’t want their students to use the health center will be able to sign a form, she said.

“The parents would be involved in any decision making with their child being seen at the health center,” Triplett said. “An exception would be made if they showed up in an emergency – a parent would be called. That’s the framework, and the details still need to be worked out.”

She said birth control will not be offered at the health center.

She noted earlier in the meeting that the health care providers would “talk about what the individual wants to talk about.”

Grant County Commissioner Chris Labhart asked if parents or family members could use the health center.

Triplett said school staff could be seen, but not other adults.

“We’re a school first,” Shelley said.

Visiting from Portland, Kate O’Donnell, a master of public health with the Oregon Public Health Division, said there are 68 other school-based health centers in Oregon. She helps plan the new centers in the state.

O’Donnell said the center at Grant Union would be a plus for the community, especially in the area of mental health, and she noted that the students develop trusting relationships with the providers.

Two Grant Union seniors, Samantha Snyder and Rayne Houser, said they support the project.

School-based health centers are “designed for adolescents,” and “parents don’t have to leave work to take their child to the doctor,” Snyder said.

Houser said the health center “will let kids stay in school more. Also, it doesn’t limit kids from seeing a doctor because of an inability to pay.”

Linda Watson, who is helping coordinate the project, said a health center would further local access to health care and would help the Community Advisory Council, which is developing a community health improvement plan.

“The school-based health center ties into our priority issues identified by the council, including children’s health, obesity and overweight, and oral health,” she said.

Triplett said the committee welcomes more input from the community.

For more information, contact Watson at 541-620-0444.

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