High school-based health care clinics

By Bethany Lankin

Although they are few in number, high school-based health care clinics provide free care from medical professionals to students who might not otherwise receive their help.

Many high schools in communities concerned with problems such as gang violence, and drugs have such clinics. DeKalb County high schools do not.

Duties for a typical school-based health care clinic might include treatment of stomachaches to substance abuse, as well as routine physicals.

Many of the 150 existing clinics, located in 30 states, have been shrouded in controversy over the discussion of birth control methods and the dispensation of contraceptives to the students.

Principal of DeKalb High School, Bernie Looney, said “Such a program is not appropriate at this time.” The high school cares for its students “on a referral basis,” Looney said, directing students who need help to the community.

Co-op education teacher Mike Elias, who has been teaching various subjects at DeKalb High School for 27 years, said he felt the school did not need such a clinic because “We have been able to reach out to the community.”

The guidance counselors employed by the high school helped the teachers by “Pointing the students in the appropriate direction,” Elias said.

No one denied there were problems in the high school. Rick Johnson, community education coordinator for the Ben Gordon Community Mental Health Center, where the school recommends their students to go, said, “1,900 persons are currently receiving direct assistance from the Ben Gordon Mental Health Center…a large chunk of that 1,900 is high school students.”

It seems the biggest factor against starting a clinic in DeKalb County is an economic one. “Resources are another factor. You can’t run a clinic without adequate funding,” said Ivette Torres, representative of the National Education Association.

The Center for Population Options’ (CPO) Support Center for School Based Clinics, estimates a typical clinic serving a school of about 1,500 students costs $165,000 a year to operate.

Polly Carter, Sycamore High School nurse, said, “Funding would hold such a program back, here in DeKalb.”

Student health care is still a concern of the officials of public high schools. Carter said although a school-based health care clinic is “not something that is being considered at the time, that doesn’t mean I think it is not important.”