Tigard-Tualatin School District's center is part of push to provide care for uninsured children
by: Jonathan House, FOR HEALTHY KIDS – Gov. Ted Kulongoski chats with Family Nurse Practitioner Margaret Stochosky during a tour of Tigard High School’s new school-based health center Wednesday.

TIGARD - Gov. Ted Kulongoski joined a host of health care advocates and local school officials on Wednesday at Tigard High School to mark the opening of a new school-based health center, the first in the state following new legislation promoting such centers.

Kulongoski used the event as a platform to accent his ambitious Healthy Kids Plan, of which the construction of school-based health care systems is a main component.

'Without regular access to health care, our children will end up getting more sick, more often,' Kulongoski said. 'Before I leave office, I want every child in Oregon to have access to health care.'

There are 117,000 kids in Oregon who are without health care access, he said. Of those, 15,000, or 11 percent, of the children living in Washington County have no health insurance, according to Oregon Health Policy and Research data.

Part of the governor's strategy to reach his objectives involves hikes on the state tobacco tax and petitioning the Legislature in the upcoming biennium for additional funds.

County initiative

The Tigard center is the 46th school-based center in the state, and is the first of 18 new centers expected to be built by 2009. The Tigard-Tualatin District School Board voted to build a school-based health center in September 2007.

School-based health centers are subsidized partially with state dollars, though they rely predominately on public and private donations for long-term sustainability. In Tigard, the donations totaled around $370,000, including a $200,000 offering from Providence Partners in Health to remodel the 1,900-square-foot building where the center is on the Tigard High School grounds.

The center will additionally be reimbursed at a higher federal rate due to its alliance with other established health agencies, and is based on a funding model that is expected to make it financially self-sustaining within the next four years. The model includes accepting children with health insurance.

The Tigard-Tualatin district center emerged out of a countywide action in October 2006 that started with the founding of the Washington County School-Based Health Care Initiative. Since then, initiative leaders were able to raise roughly $1.2 million from public and private donors for school-based centers in the county. The Tigard-Tualatin center is the first, though other centers are planned in Forest Grove, Beaverton and Hillsboro.

'Trail-blazing model'

In 2007, the Legislature allocated $2 million statewide, identified in Kulongoski's budget plan as a foundation for communities to build upon for the construction of school-based health care centers, providing a backdrop for the initiative group's efforts. In fact, the initiative group was able to raise $19 for every $1 in state funds to help finance the centers.

Bill Thomas, the director for the Washington County Commission on Children and Families, said the effort is illustrative of what a small group of devoted people can accomplish when they put their minds to it.

Thomas called it a 'trail-blazing model' that other school-based health care programs could learn from.

'The Tigard health center is a prototype for future centers,' he said.

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