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story.lead_photo.caption NWA Democrat-Gazette/ANDY SHUPE Tera Thompson, an advanced practice registered nurse with Washington Regional, uses a stethoscope Dec. 18 while demonstrating the use of one of the Lincoln School-Based Health Center's examination rooms by checking out her daughter, Layla Thompson, 4, who was feeling ill.

LINCOLN -- The School District and Washington Regional Medical Center have partnered to keep a clinic open at the Middle School.

The school-based clinic opened with a grant in 2010 for students, faculty, staff members and members of the community. Superintendent Mary Ann Spears said the Community Clinic took it over two years ago and a doctor was at the clinic a few days a week.

Checklist

School districts and their partners must meet these requirements to be compliant with the state-funded program:

• The center must be where students are primarily.

• The center must offer physical health services provided by an advanced practice registered nurse or medical doctor and mental health services provided by a licensed clinical social worker, licensed professional counselor or licensed mental health professional.

• The district must employ a full-time school-based health center coordinator to act as the liaison of the school to oversee the operation of the student-focused health center.

Source: Arkansas Department of Education

Kathy Grisham, chief executive officer of Community Clinic, said her organization ended its partnership with the School District because there wasn't enough participation to justify expenses.

Spears reached out to Lincoln School Board member Tera Thompson, an advanced practice registered nurse for Washington Regional, and a new partnership was formed.

The school pays for the utilities, maintenance and cleaning. Washington Regional started providing staff members and service Dec. 1.

School-based clinics

The Arkansas Department of Education began the school-based health center program in 2010.

Lincoln School District was one of eight districts to receive a state grant to open a health center in the program's first year, said Kimberly Friedman, spokeswoman with the state agency.

Lincoln received a $540,000 five-year grant. The grant decreased from $150,000 the first year to $75,000 in the final year.

Grant money mostly went to startup costs, such as renovating the former home economics building on the Middle School campus, buying equipment, such as exam tables, and paying part of the staff's salary, Spears said.

The intention of school-based health centers includes improving academic success, reducing student and staff absences, increasing standardized test scores and increasing the high school graduation rate, according to the Department of Education's website.

The Lincoln clinic offers everything a typical family practice doctor's office offers, said Mark Thomas, Washington Regional's medical director of clinics.

Students or teachers can get check-ups or be treated for an illness, including chronic conditions such as diabetes. If a school nurse determines a child has symptoms, such as fever or a possible infection, the nurse can get permission to send the child to the clinic instead of the parent having to leave work to take the child to the doctor.

"It keeps our kids in school because typically, if a kid is ill or has an appointment, the parents are taking them to Fayetteville or Springdale," Spears said. Fayetteville is about 20 miles away from Lincoln, while Springdale is about 30 miles away.

Likewise, faculty and staff members can go to the clinic during their prep period and not miss work.

Three school employees went to the clinic during two recent weeks, Thompson said.

Twenty-six school districts have school-based clinics, including six in Benton and Washington counties, according to the website.

'An easy decision'

Thompson and Dr. Jennifer Cheatham split their time between the school clinic and the Washington Regional West Washington County Clinic in Lincoln.

Washington Regional pays its staff working at the school clinic out of its regular budget, spokeswoman Natalie Hardin said. There are also registered nurses on staff.

"Expanding that into the school-based clinic was an easy decision. It's good for the people of Washington County and for the people around Lincoln," Thomas said.

"The biggest barrier was finding primary care doctors," Spears said.

Washington Regional isn't affiliated with any other school-based clinics, he said. The clinic is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Friday.

The clinic accepts insurance, but will treat anyone regardless of ability to pay, Thomas said.

The School District has about 1,150 students in kindergarten through 12th grade. More than 70 percent of the students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, Spears said.

Lincoln's population was about 2,400 in 2017, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Many of the students receive health insurance through Medicaid or ARKids, a health insurance program for kids, and were on waiting lists at primary care physicians' offices before the school-based clinic opened, she said.

NWA Democrat-Gazette/ANDY SHUPE The Lincoln School-Based Health Center serves students, faculty and staff of Lincoln Public Schools as well as area residents.

NW News on 12/28/2018

Print Headline: Washington Regional, Lincoln School District keep clinic open

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