School board hears plan for onsite health care
In her time as a school nurse, Valerie Cain said she saw students go untreated for a variety of medical conditions ranging from diabetes to asthma and dental abscesses.
“I have seen so many students without health insurance that have health conditions,” she said. “It really does compromise their academic potential. They can’t concentrate in that kind of pain.”
A possible solution, she told school board members during their Tuesday meeting, is onsite health centers.
“I know the value of what health-care centers can do in schools,” said Cain, who served four years as a school nurse and is now the district’s health services coordinator. “It could make a huge difference.”
The centers would be housed at the school and offer basic health services such as well-checks, immunizations and primary care, she said.
It would be designed to serve all students with a focus on the uninsured and underserved.
Students suffering at school could be referred to the center, or parents could make an appointment.
“Kids are at school six to seven hours a day, five days a week, nine months a year,” Cain said. “That’s the best place to service kids. Parents don’t have to worry about transportation.”
The initial site being considered is Empire Elementary School, with a high population of students who don’t have access to medical care.
Cain said there is already a portable classroom on site that could be converted to the health center and would provide easy accessibility.
Funding possibilities include federal and state funding, local leadership and health-care reform grants, she said.
The goal would be to open a center this school year, Cain said.
Communities in Schools would help facilitate the process. Louise Helton, director of the program, said two similar centers have been built in Las Vegas with donations from the local community. She said the primary goal is to bring existing services together to serve children.
“If students are being held back for reasons that aren’t academic, it’s really a no-win situation,” she said.
As an emergency room nurse, trustee Lynnette Conrad supported the idea.
“It just seems so wonderful and so needed,” she said. “I can’t stress how much this is needed in this community.”
Trustee Joanna Wilson also said she was in support, but was concerned about hearing about the idea so late in the process.
“I would have loved to have had this presentation in April,” she said. “How did it get this far without this board even having a clue?”
President Norm Scoggin asked that Conrad and Wilson meet with organizers about the project and report back to the board.
Claudia Funk, an early childhood educator at Empire Elementary School, also raised a concern, asking organizers to find an alternative location for the proposed center rather than share space in the portable with her program.
Former board member Sheila Ward urged trustees to carefully research all funding sources to determine what strings would be attached.