Proposal - Committee will take public input on plan to build a School Based Health Center on the Forest Grove High campus
by: , Jack Musser

The idea for a student health center on the Forest Grove High School grounds is about to get a thorough examination.

A 17-person steering committee will present its recommendations for the district-proposed School Based Health Center during a community meeting Thursday, April 10.

The meeting will be at 7 p.m. in the library at the high school, 1401 Nichols Lane.

Committee members - including students, parents, Forest Grove School District staff and representatives from the local faith community and medical profession - will consider comments from the community before taking their final recommendations to the school board on April 28, according to Connie Potter, a district spokeswoman.

The board is expected to vote on the plan that night.

The clinic, which proponents plan to build just north of the FGHS tennis courts, would offer immunizations, sports physicals, routine exams, vision and dental screenings and mental health services.

A $402,137 Community Development Block Grant secured earlier this year by the school district would pay for construction of the 1,600-square-foot building.

January opening?

Superintendent Jack Musser has said the clinic could open as soon as January 2009 as part of a partnership with the Washington County Commission on Children and Families.

'We have grants to cover the first three years of operations,' said Potter. 'School district money won't be used to operate the center. It's a clinic located on our premises, but we won't operate it.'

Bill Thomas, director of the county commission on children and families, said two separate grants - one from the Kaiser Permanente Community Health Fund at the Northwest Health Foundation for $110,000 and the other from the Oregon Department of Human Services for $40,000 - were available to the Forest Grove district for the first year.

The center would be staffed by a full-time nurse practitioner, a licensed mental health counselor and an office assistant, 'most likely' funded by Cornelius-based Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center or Tuality Healthcare, Potter said.

'The goal is to provide easier access to health services for all students,' she said. The health center would serve mostly uninsured or underinsured students, but would be open to all students.

Tigard clinic open now

Before this week, only Merlo Station High School in the Beaverton School District operated a School Based Health Center.

Today the Tigard-Tualatin School District opened a clinic at Tigard High School, 9000 S.W. Durham Road. Gov. Ted Kulongoski was scheduled to speak at the Tigard High School Health Center's grand opening.

First-year funding in Tigard is being provided by Columbia-Willamette United Way and Providence Partners in Health, through grants totaling $240,000. Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center is employing staff members as the clinic's medical sponsor.

No contraceptives

In addition to the services being considered in Forest Grove, the Tigard clinic also offers reproductive health services. The local steering committee has recommended that contraceptives and prescriptions for contraceptives not be dispensed at the local health center.

Communication with parents about students' health concerns would be encouraged 'within the limitations of Oregon's Minor Consent Laws,' one of the committee's recommendation reads.

The center would seek to become financially self-sufficient by the third year by billing private insurance and the Oregon Health Plan.

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