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Scappoose schools to adopt school-based health center

Public Health Foundation of Columbia County hopes to have certified facility in place by June 2017


SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: NICOLE THILL - The Sacagewea Health Center in St. Helens is a school-based health center that opened in 2000 to serve students in grades K-12. The Scappoose School District approved plans to create a school-based health center in the Scappoose Middle School on Monday, Aug. 8.The Scappoose School District is aiming to establish a school-based health center, which would be housed in the Scappoose Middle School by June 2017.

During a school board meeting Monday, Aug. 8, the district’s board of directors voted 5 to 1 to approve the establishment of the center in light of recent grant funding from the Oregon Health Authority that was awarded to the Public Health Foundation of Columbia County for the project.

The primary services of the center would be to provide immunizations, treatments for chronic diseases or illnesses, treatment of physical injuries, access to mental health services and health care advisement for young adults.

To be state-certified, OHA also requires school-based health centers to provide reproductive health exams, visual dental screening, physical exams and referrals for prescriptions for contraceptives, hearing exams and behavioral health counseling, among other services.

In April 2015, Nicole Lawrence, the school-based health center coordinator for the Public Health Foundation of Columbia County, and Brenda Van Domelen, the Scappoose School District nurse, approached the school board about the project, one year after receiving a $60,000 planning grant from OHA to establish a school-based health center.

However, many unanswered questions and several road blocks prevented the project from moving forward, including the lack of a medical sponsor for the facility, a location on school property and financial resources.

On Monday, Lawrence announced that the three main hurdles that halted the project previously had been cleared. Oregon Health and Science University services in Scappoose offered to be the medical sponsor for the health center, and the team had identified a room in the Scappoose Middle School that could be used. The funding would come from the state grant, if the center was approved by the board.

Ongoing operating costs upwards of $55,000 could also be obtained from the state if the center is certified by June 30, Lawrence added.

Prior to a short presentation by Lawrence on Monday, Superintendent Stephen Jupe read from a statement he prepared in support of the health center.

“To negate the creation of a school-based health center on the basis of any political predictions about possible moral effects on the community is to disregard the large number of benefits to students the health centers are able to provide to our students,” Jupe said.

Van Domelen stated her excitement about the potential for the health center to begin operations due to the growing need of the students she sees everyday.

“All I want to say is, this has been my pet thing for a long, long, long time,” Van Domelen said. “And I’m super excited about not only the funding we’ve been able to acquire, but also the great partnership that’s always been in the back of my head with OHSU ...”

Data from the Public Health Foundation indicate a need for student services. In 2014, St. Helens students made up 10 percent of the patients served at the Sacagewea Health Center.

School board member Lisa Maloney said she was opposed to the center. She asked why students couldn’t be served by other medical facilities, like the OHSU clinic, which recently added 12 exam rooms in December, or the Sacagewea Health Center in St. Helens.

Maloney also stated that the school board should not be involved in health care decisions, but should be more focused on the educational responsibilities and duties of the board.

Previously, Maloney has raised objections to sexuality education and reproductive health programs available to students.

Only one work session regarding the health center was held by the Scappoose School District in April 2015 before Monday’s vote.

St. Helens, Rainier, Clatskanie and Vernonia all have school-based health centers.