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Health Center Offers In-School Care

HCS Student Vaccination Rate Rises to 97%-98%


HARRISON – The Harrison Community Schools Board of Education members heard a highly informative Building Instructional Highlight during their Feb. 12 meeting. On hand were Michelle Wolfe, P.A.-C, and Shelby Battle, CMA, who provided an update on the school-based health center located in Harrison Middle School. Wolfe started out by citing her position as a physician assistant along wither prior experience as a P.A. in family practice for three years in Houghton Lake. She said when the HCS position was in the offing and was asked if she was interested, she said yes.

“It’s obviously more pediatric based, but I like that,” said Wolfe. She went on to explain that the HCS student patient base is age 5 until the summer after high school graduation (up to age 21). Wolfe added that she also has chosen to see staff members, noting that being family practice based she is comfortable with adults and also likes to serve a variety of patients.

“It’s free for the kids,” she said. “Staff do have to pay, as if you were to see your primary care provider or go to an urgent care. When I see staff, it’s more of an acute thing, not really chronic condition unless there’s an exacerbation of something I can take care of.” She further explained that she can only see adults for four hours per week, as the clinic’s grant purpose is for the kids. “I have to make that the priority … the kids come first.”

Wolfe described acute conditions as ear infection, strep, viral illnesses, mononucleosis – getting things out of kids’ ears.

“We have a pretty good list of things I’ve gotten out of kids’ ears,” she said – one of which was alive.

Wolfe went on to say she talks weekly with two collaborating physicians and can call in medicines and do basically anything a doctor can do except anything surgical.

She also informed that she can be a child’s care provider for chronic conditions, which can be in addition to the child’s own primary care provider.

“But if they have an acute concern and they can’t get in or they don’t want to go to urgent care, come to me,” Wolfe said. “If I’m available, I will help you.”

Additionally, Wolfe does well-child checks, which she emphasized is very important as lots of kids in the community do not see a provider or have established care – they don’t see a dentist, doctor, P.A., or nurse practitioner.

“So, this is awesome for the kids,” she said. “I love, love, love my job – it’s perfect … I get to take care of kids who need to be taken care of.”

Battle, a certified medical assistant, spoke of the health center’s affiliated counselor Kendra Doneth who sees students in the school district. She also noted it is more difficult to see the elementary students as they have to be transported to the clinic to ensure a secure setting. Battle said the counselor is getting a wait list because it is getting busier.

“We also offer vaccines for children,” she said. “Which are free vaccines for anybody who has Medicaid, have no insurance, are under-insured, or are under the age of 18 or Native American or Alaskan.”

She informed that February is also School-Based Health Awareness Month, and that some fun activities with kids were planned for the coming week.

It was noted that wellness care for a child can include more than medical concerns. Sometimes that means just providing a safe, quiet space to calm down or have a cry in the presence of someone who cares.

“If you need to be mad for 5, that’s cool,” Battle said. “Just don’t be running in here to get away from trouble, because it’s not going to go that far.

“Other than that, we try to be very welcoming to the kids, and be there as much as we can. We want them to feel comfortable, but we also want them in class.”

Free sports physicals are offered at the clinic also. It was clarified that, due to the limitations of the grant, the child clinic services are available only to HCS students, which also includes Link Learning and home-schooled students who live within the district.

Other school-based health services provided through this MidMichigan Health program are at Coleman, Houghton Lake and Roscommon, and there is a nurse at Gladwin and Beaverton. Superintendent Judy Walton noted the Farwell Schools superintendent had inquired about Harrison’s experience with the clinic, because they also see the value in it.

“I think we’re just lucky to be in a community that embraces this idea of a school-based clinic,” Walton said. “Anytime I walk by, it’s such a friendly atmosphere; it’s so inviting.”

Kendra Durga also praised the progress made in securing consent forms which enable students to come to the clinic to be seen. Wolfe said that in the first year only 40 consent forms had been turned in, and this year there were 700-plus – the equivalent of half the student enrolment. Another statistic of note was the vaccination rate in the district. When the clinic first arrived, that percentage rate was in the low 80s. Now it stands at 97% to 98% of all kids in the district being vaccinated.

It also was clarified that the health center is not a “walk-in” clinic, and that appointments are preferred.

Information provided showed that services include: Primary health care; first aid; preventive care; health education; immunizations; well-child checks; sports physicals; medication administration; individual and group counseling services; HIV screening/referrals; pregnancy testing/referrals; and substance abuse counseling/education/referrals.

Later in the meeting, Walton referred back to the health center presentation, and spoke of the fact the Health Department waiver is required if parents don’t want their child vaccinated. She stressed that waiver is ONLY available at the Health Department and is NOT something parents can make up on their own. She explained that, legally, a school is supposed to exclude an unvaccinated child if no vaccination waiver is provided. It was suggested that someone from the Health Department be on hand at Kindergarten Roundup to make sure immunizations are up to date, or that a waiver is secured. Kindergarten and seventh grade are when immunization status is checked, so finding a way to do the same at orientation in August for seventh-graders will help the district stay on top of that requirement.

“We’re not judging you, we need one or the other,” Walton said. “We check in kindergarten and in seventh grade, by law.”

© Clare County Cleaver


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