Oregon joins push for school-based clinics
Federal effort lacks funding; $50 million sought
School officials from Oregon and across the nation are asking Congress to fund more school-based health centers.
A little-known part of federal health-care reform includes more medical, dental and mental-health services at schools - but it hasn't been funded. About 2,000 centers already are open in the United States, including six run by La Clinica in Medford.
Before she went to work as the SBHC site coordinator in Medford, Corina Gabriel learned about the clinics because she and her children used them. Children are more comfortable getting care in familiar surroundings, she said, and for busy parents, the convenience is a bonus.
"Really, it saved my job and it saved me from having to take the time off and pick them up, take them to the doctor and bring them back," she said. "They also received most of their immunizations at the school. So it was very convenient."
The school-based clinics follow up on children's routine hearing and vision screenings, and Gabriel said they also can treat all the usual ailments, from sore throats to playground injuries.
The mental and behavioral health counselors have full caseloads, and Gabriel is convinced many children are getting care at school that they would not otherwise receive.
"I'm hoping that this is the way of the future for many of the schools in the nation," she said. "With all of the power and support that we can really get these children the access to care that they need."
The Medford clinics are in five elementary schools and one high school. According to the Oregon School-Based Health Care Network, there are 55 certified centers in Oregon schools and seven more in development.
The clinics have a sliding-fee scale. depending on a family's ability to pay.
Nationally, a group of school officials has sent a letter to Congress asking for a $50 million appropriation to open more SBHC sites. It wasn't included in President Obama's budget.
More information from the Oregon School-Based Health Care Network is online at osbhcn.org.
Chris Thomas of Oregon News Service provided this story.
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