In-school health clinics not only meet the health-care needs of students and staff, but also their families

School-based health clinics in Kentucky could become a trend,  especially as the state searches for solutions to meet the health care needs of schools as budgets for school nurses continue to be slashed.

Southern Kentucky has Cumberland Family Medical, based in Burkesville, which has clinics at the five schools in Russell County and a deal to do likewise with the four in adjoining Adair County.

Western Kentucky has three such clinics, with two more likely to open next year, Genevieve Postlethwait reports for The Paducah Sun. 

The clinics are at McCracken County’s Reidland Middle School, Lone Oak Elementary School, and Paducah’s Morgan Elementary. Next school year a full-time clinic will open in McCracken County High School, hopefully followed by a clinic at McNabb Elementary.

These clinics exist as a partnership between Mercy Medical Associates and the local public school districts; the school districts supply the space, Mercy supplies and staff and the Lourdes Foundation helps with funding, Postlethwait reports.

An advanced practice registered nurse with Mercy Medical, Julie Higdon, said she has seen well over 30 patients at the Lone Oak clinic since it opened in mid-April. “That’s not busy by ER standards,” she said, “but that’s busy for a little clinic that’s just softly opened.”

The clinics serve the entire “school family,” from the students and their parents and siblings to the districts’ teachers, staff and administrators, regardless of their ability to pay. “Their goal is to give the community the preventive, acute and critical health care it needs while reducing students’ and teachers’ time away from school, and parents’ time away from work,” Postlethwait writes.

“It’s a big deal when you start talking about dollars and cents, too,” Tennille Rushing, director of clinical operations for Mercy, told Postlethwait.  “Not only in the impact for the schools to have kids staying in the classroom and helping with attendance numbers, but for parents. If you only have a limited number of days that you can take off, and you have to take off half a day to go sit in a lobby somewhere with your child, you’ve missed a half day of pay.”

These clinics will also help those without a primary-care provider, which are in short supply in the Paducah area. The Lone Oak clinic will remain open by appointment only this summer.

“I feel like these clinics really have the potential to meet a need for the community,” Higdon told Postlethwait. “I feel like it has great potential to grow, I really do.” (This story is behind a paywall.)

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