BREWER, Maine — Children who get sick while attending school in Brewer or who need psychological counseling or dental care don’t have to look far for medical services thanks to two school-based clinics that opened five years ago.
The clinics are a partnership between Penobscot Community Health Center and the school department, and local leaders learned this week they would receive $234,862 in federal funds to support the health care programs.
“A lot of the students come from families that are underprivileged and don’t have access to quality health care,” the Rev. Bob Carlson, president of PCHC, said on Friday. “These [clinics] allow for any student to have access to that kind of care.”
The federal funding, provided by the Affordable Care Act, “will fully equip exam rooms, mental health offices, waiting rooms, and a full dental operation in one location with portable dental equipment in the other locations,” a press release from U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud states.
The school-based clinics allow students to just walk down the hallway to get care, Superintendent Daniel Lee said. The clinics are staffed by a nurse practitioner, a dental hygienist and a licensed therapist who work closely with the schools’ nurses and guidance counselors to coordinate care.
“We have someone who can treat them,” Lee said. “That is just good for boys and girls and that is why we’re so happy about this.”
Brewer High School, which enrolls students from all over the region, hosts one clinic. The second clinic was operated at Brewer Middle School and will reopen at the new Brewer Community School in the fall, he said.
Parents of students may enroll them in the school-based clinics program or students may get parental permission when they seek services. There is no immediate out-of-pocket cost for care, but those with insurance may be required to pay co-pays later. A sliding scale is used for those without insurance, and no one is ever turned away, Lee stressed.
“Everybody gets served,” he said. “We have a lot of kids who are of the working poor and many of these kids don’t have health insurance; don’t have a primary care provider,” he said.
Michaud praised the U.S. Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services for their support of Maine school-based health centers. A total of 278 communities, four in Maine, will receive the Affordable Care Act funds to help clinics expand, improve equipment and provide more health care services at schools, the congressman said.
“These investments will help our students stay healthy and increase their ability to excel in the classroom,” Michaud said. “Access to health care is a real problem in rural states like Maine, and I’m pleased these projects will provide our students access to the high-quality care they deserve.”
In addition to the PCHC, Community Clinical Services in Lewiston will receive $337,684; Calais will receive $109,359 for the Blue Devil Health Center located adjacent to Calais High School and Readfield will receive $34,563 for the Maranacook High School’s school-based health clinic.
The two school-based clinics in Brewer have removed barriers for students who need all types of health care and their success should be used as an example for others, Lee said.
“I think every school in the nation should have a family nurse practitioner available to care for kids,” he said. “It’s a great preventative health model and I think this is the future for health care. It’s cost-effective and effective — it works.”