School health center to open at Lawrence High School after years of effort
FAIRFIELD – Shannon King is a resident of Benton these days, but she knows Fairfield and its schools. Her parents went to Lawrence High, as did her, her husband and her sons.
When she was the adolescent health coordinator for the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, King realized that her community would benefit from a school-based health center.
After her retirement, she and a few other residents of the area gradually worked towards this goal, and with success. The Lawrence High School Health Center is now slated to open in the fall, in a classroom next to the school’s nurse’s office, principal Dan Bowers said.
“It’s exciting. It’s one more thing we can offer the kids and I can’t wait to finally set it up, organize it and open it this year,” Bowers said.
The school is currently renovating the space. The center will provide students and staff with primary health care services, including sports physical exams, treatment of minor illnesses and chronic disease management.
HealthReach Community Health Centers, a Waterville-based organization that operates about a dozen in western and central Maine, will operate the Lawrence High School facility like any of its others – meaning HealthReach is funding it. , rather than the school district.
The center is not intended to replace school nurses, but to work in collaboration with existing medical staff. It aims to minimize the time students miss from school due to illness or injury.
HealthReach will take insurance for its services and plans to offer sliding-scale payment options.
The organization hired Katie Gillihan, a family nurse practitioner, to run the center. She is an employee of HealthReach and is not part of the district payroll. Gillihan will be helped by Amanda Cahoon, a medical assistant.
“We’ve got a bathroom there, two exam rooms, and then we’ll have a reception area where Katie will look after the kids when they come in,” Bowers said.
The plan is for Gillihan to be in Lawrence two days a week from 8 a.m. to noon, but those hours could expand in the future. The phone line for making appointments will be open Monday through Friday during business hours.
“It was an amazing collaboration with some of the community who started this locally, then school staff and staff,” said Connie Coggins, CEO of HealthReach.
The concept of school health centers is to remove barriers that prevent children from accessing primary care. “The idea is to integrate that and make it convenient for students and their parents,” Coggins said.
“Some jobs do not allow parents to leave work for medical visits for their children,” said Shannon King. “So I just think it’s a win-win all around.”
The Maine Center for Disease Control provides funding to 15 school health centers across the state, said George Shaler, who works with the MCDC to provide technical assistance to school clinics and provide professional development services. Shaler said he’s not sure exactly how many school health centers exist in Maine because only state-funded ones need to be in contact with him, but he estimates there are around 20. Compared to other states, Shaler said Maine is likely in the middle of the pack.
“Maine doesn’t have as many school health centers, compared to the number of high schools we have. Which is a bit of a shame, because personally I think every school should have a school health center, ”King said.
“Ensuring that all children have access to comprehensive primary health care gives all children a fair chance to stay in school and be ready to learn,” said parent Elayne Richards . “When that happens, our community is a better place. “
Vaccination rate in kindergartens in Maine is increasing