Board should OK new health clinic


Forest Grove High School parents are asking a lot of questions about the district's plan to open a student health center on campus.

Some bristle at the notion of older students visiting the clinic without the parents' consent (this isn't a school policy but, rather, a state law allowing anyone 15 and over to make medical decisions on their own).

Others are worried about teens copping contraceptives (they won't be available at the center).

Unfortunately, the one question they aren't asking is how can we open the doors sooner?

The Oregon Office of Health Policy estimates that 11 percent of Washington County children are uninsured. Here on the west side of the county, where the poverty rate spikes, the percentage of uninsured families likely is much higher.

As a result, it's a safe bet that in the Forest Grove School District, more than 700 students come from families without medical insurance. That's 700 children who likely had their last check-up in an emergency room.

That's 700 kids whose parents will pay out-of-pocket costs for a physical for their young athlete.

And 700 kids who will probably ignore that lingering sore throat, persistant headache or nagging stomach cramp.

Some might argue the parents of these children need to get a job. But the truth is many come from working families. Estimates are that 57 percent of Oregon's uninsured are employed. Among industries like farming, construction and forestry, 70 percent of the uninsured are working full-time.

And, regardless of their parents' circumstances, what are the children supposed to do about the insurance gap?

Fortunately, help is in the offing.

The Forest Grove School District recently secured a $402,000 federal grant to build the building, and it's working with Tuality Healthcare and Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Clinic to sort out who will hold the stethoscope.

That money, which comes from Medicaid, Medicare and the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, is earmarked for such projects. It can't be used to hire more guidance counselors, supplement scholarships or even fund a synthetic turf soccer field.

Now, all that's needed is the Forest Grove School Board's go-ahead.

Board members will take up the matter at their April 28 meeting. We trust they will address some legitimate concerns about traffic and on-going funding. But we hope they're able to hear, above the rankled voices of a few critics, the silent suffering of 700 uninsured kids.