Advertisement

Clinic idea needs work

February 24, 1999

Washington County Health Officer Robert Parker's statement that local students need better health services is an idea that's hard to oppose. But before the school systems expands the current program, the community needs to decide what services will be provided - and how they'll be paid for.

School Board Member B. Marie Byers pinpointed what's likely to be the most controversial aspect of the program when she asked Dr. Parker if a proposed series of clinics at county schools would distribute contraceptive devices.

"This is a decision that has to be made with the community," Parker replied.

How right he is; Washington County hasn't dropped below the state average for teen pregnancy since 1990, but residents may not be ready for tax-funded clinics providing birth-control devices to young people. And there's the issue of parental consent; should parents of students who are treated for any illness have to be informed? This is a controversial issue that will require extensive community debate prior to opening any school-based clinic.

Advertisement

And then there's the funding issue. Parker projects more than $400,000 in combined operating and start-up costs. Building centers on each campus would cost about $200,000 apiece.

Parker says federal and state grants, along with local contributions and government funds, could cover that and annual operating costs of $200,000.

We'd like to think so, but last summer, an agency already dedicated to helping the under-served here had to issue an emergency appeals for funds. The Community Free Clinic, which serves an estimated 15,000 to 17,000 county residents without health insurance. Despite operating with donated services from more than 140 local doctors, clinic officials said they had been forced to turn away 20 to 30 patients a week since November 1997. In December, the clinic made a public appeal to the community for more than $100,000 for its 1999 budget.

This is one clinic, serving those who have few other resources, and its officials still have trouble making ends meet. Before this school-based clinic idea moves another step ahead, we need to a plan to build community support, philosophically and financially.

The Herald-Mail Articles
|
|
|