Staff, parents learn about school-based clinics

Parents, staff and concerned residents gathered Thursday at Tygarts Valley High School to learn about proposed school-based health clinics in Tygarts Valley Middle and High School and George Ward Elementary Schools.

The clinics could possibly be placed in Elkins High School, Elkins Middle School and Jennings Randolph Elementary.

Brock Malcolm, chief operations officer for Community Care of West Virginia, and Patricia Collett, physician’s assistant with the group, addressed members of the Randolph County Board of Education Feb. 4, asking members to consider allowing them to place clinics in at least four Randolph County Schools.

Collett spoke with parents and teachers Wednesday evening at Jennings Randolph Elementary School during their local school improvement council meeting, telling about the proposed program and its benefits, and answering questions. Notices of the meetings were sent to parents through Parent Link. On Thursday evening, Collett met with parents and staff of Tygarts Valley Middle and High Schools and George Ward Elementary Schools.

Currently, there are 88 school-based health clinics in West Virginia including Upshur, Braxton, Harrison, Grant Hardy, Pendleton and Pocahontas counties.

Fran McLaughlin, principal of George Ward Elementary School, and Steve Wamsley, principal of Tygarts Valley High School, said they both agree the school-based clinics are a good idea.

“Patricia Collett was up and went through our schools and discussed the clinics with us,” Wamsley said. “We invited her up to speak with parents, staff and community members so they would have the chance to learn about the program and ask questions.”

“One real advantage of the clinics is that staff of the schools can also be seen,” McLaughlin said. “This is a great idea to cut down on absenteeism. Teachers and staff can go to the clinic during their planning periods.”

Collett said access to health care is an issue in this area.

“Parents have a hard time getting students to doctor visits because of jobs, access to only one vehicle and schedule conflicts,” Collett said. “We want to bring the care to the kids. This makes it easier. If a child has asthma, we can work with them to help find the triggers and help bring their asthma under control.”

With the in-school clinics, students can have immunizations, well-child visits, physicals and sick visits.

“School-based health clinics reduce unnecessary visits to the emergency departments, and reduce absenteeism for students and staff,” Collett said.

“If a child is not feeling great, they can go to school and be checked by the nurse. If he has a temperature and is checked, it could be something like an ear infection,” she said. “We would administer ear drops, a pain reliever, and call the parent to let them know he has the infection and where the child’s prescription could be picked up. This saves on a child missing the day of instruction and the parent missing work. Ear infections are not contagious, so the child can stay in school.”

Collett said permission slips are sent home at the beginning of school, and unless there is an emergency, parents must give permission for students to use the clinic.

Teacher Tammie Swecker asked if the clinic could administer allergy shots, and Collett said that is a service they can offer.

Guidance counselor Mark Allen asked why the local clinic in Mill Creek could not come into the schools and offer these services.

“I cannot speak for another clinic,” Collett said.

Allen said another concern he had is having the clinic in the schools could diminish parents’ sense of responsibility.

“Parents need to be more engaged in their children’s care,” Allen said. “This relieves them of another responsibility.”

Collett said automated external defibrillators would be placed in each school where the clinics are located.

She said the company would pay for the defibrillators, and none of the schools in Randolph County currently have the devices.

Collett said the first step in implementing the clinics is approval through the Randolph County Board of Education.

“Once we get the go-ahead from the board, it takes about three to four months to complete the paperwork required by the Federal Government,” Collett said. “Hopefully we can be in the schools by the beginning of next school year.”