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Health center to open in August

May 07, 2001

Health center to open in August



By TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

A pilot health center that will provide middle school students with treatment for pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, drug abuse and mental health issues will open in August at Western Heights Middle School, according to a letter from the Washington County Board of Education's director of student services.

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Western Heights serves students in fifth through eighth grades.

The Washington County Board of Education approved the wellness center last August.

Martha Roulette, the board's director of student services, wrote in an April 23 letter to the schools superintendent that the board will follow the minor consent law regarding the notification of parents whose children receive treatment.

"We are also advising any parent ... of confidential services that were provided as per minor consent law. The services include treatment for pregnancy, drug abuse, sexually transmitted diseases and mental health services," the letter states.

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The minor consent law generally gives physicians or other medical staff the discretion to notify parents, guardians or custodians of the treatment, except information about abortions. In the case of abortion information, Maryland law allows a physician to waive parental notification on the basis of the minor's maturity or best interest, according to Planned Parenthood.

Roulette said at a School Board meeting last week that the center would not provide family planning services, but will make referrals to other agencies or offices that do. The board has also stated that the wellness center will not hand out contraceptives to students.

The Washington County Health Department and Mental Health Center will provide services at the wellness center, coordinating with physicians and health care providers. The Washington County Community Partnership for Children and Families was awarded a $200,000 grant to fund the pilot program, said John Budesky, Community Partnership executive director.

The wellness center will also offer school health services, acute care for common childhood illnesses, health assessment, immunizations, physical examinations, coordination with the child's primary care provider, education for parents and case management.

"The services will be preventative as well as curative," Roulette said.

Roulette said wellness center officials expect to begin enrolling students this month. She said as of now, the center would only provide services to Western Heights students. All of the students at the school are eligible to enroll with parental consent.

Western Heights was chosen based on need, which was determined by the number of health office visits by students there, the number lacking health insurance, the percentage receiving free and reduced meals and the number of students receiving addiction services.

The school system also found need for a center at E. Russell Hicks Middle School, but did not select the school for the pilot program.

No student will be denied services because of an inability to pay, according to the wellness center's parental consent form.

"We're just really delighted with the progress we're making," Roulette said.

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