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Board approves health center at high school

Thumbs-up - State's 48th clinic could be open by next January
by: Chase Allgood, Forest Grove High School senior Sandra Soto testified in favor of the health center, saying “I know there is a need.”

A student health center at Forest Grove High School will soon be under construction after the school board gave the project a green light Monday night.

The clinic, which could open as soon as next January, will become the 48th School Based Health Center in Oregon, part of an initiative promoted by Gov. Ted Kulongoski.

A coalition of partners, including the Washington County Commission on Children and Families and Tuality Healthcare, is poised to help the school district get the clinic off the ground.

'We're looking forward to collborating in order to provide better health care to students in need,' said Dick Stenson, president and chief executive officer of Tuality Healthcare. He added that his company would provide 'equipment, diagnostic testing and other support' and work with the Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center in Cornelius to make the project a reality.

The clinic, to be built north of the FGHS tennis courts, will serve all students in the district but will focus on uninsured and underinsured pupils. A $402,000 Community Development Block Grant will be used to construct the 1,600-square-foot facility.

Of 26 people who stepped to the microphone to testify, only five urged the board to vote against the proposal.

'I have deep concerns about having a health center on campus,' said parent Coni Ingram. 'I believe our focus needs to stay on education and getting kids graduated.'

Kelli Alderman said those without insurance have other health-care options.

'Virginia Garcia is three miles from the high school - or they can go to the county,' she said.

Board member Anna Tavera-Weller said many people she knows are in a 'darned if you do, and darned if you don't' financial situation.

Many in the agricultural industry work for employers who don't provide health insurance, she noted. Others 'who are lucky to have a dual income' fail to qualify for the Oregon Health Plan 'by just a few dollars.

'And Virginia Garcia isn't a free service,' she said. 'That has gone by the wayside.'

Forest Grove High senior Sandra Soto appealed to parents opposed to the clinic to 'remember that for those who aren't fortunate, this is really hard to come by.'

Board Chair Dawn Pratt said she wanted 'to make sure the clinic would be self-sustaining' in the future.

The Forest Grove clinic will be the 48th SBHC in the state. Tigard High School opened one April 9.