School unsure about adding clinic

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 21, 2002

As supporters finalize their plans for staffing, location and funding sources, a student health center for the Albert Lea School District &045; the first of its kind in rural Minnesota &045; looks more likely. But school board members still have questions and concerns.

The district’s student health center would be run by a registered nurse, hired to be a health-care provider as well as a health and wellness educator. It would be housed at the high school, in space that had been designated for a possible health center or clinic when the building was designed and built. The funding for the position, including staff and equipment, will come from grants from the state’s tobacco settlement fund and from the Freeborn County Family Services Collaborative.

&uot;This is something that will be designed to address the health needs of students,&uot; said Carol Bosma, school nurse for District 241.

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&uot;It’s the product of a community-wide effort to look at adolescents’ health needs. We see students whose academic life is impacted by their health,&uot; said Carol Braun, school board member. The center would be one way to start to deal with the health issues of a group that is often overlooked by other elements of the medical establishment, said Haun.

Exactly how the center would address the health needs of adolescents was a major concern of some school board members. They are cautiously supportive, but want to have more details about services and policies before they act.

According to Bosma, who presented the proposed center to the board along with Marilyn Koprowski of the Freeborn County Family Services Collaborative and Lois Ahern, director of the Freeborn County Public Health Service, the plan is to hire a director, who will then work with other groups in the school district and community to develop a range of services to be provided by the center, as well as design educational programs for students.

The Student Health Center would start out offering enhanced school-nurse type services, among which would likely be immunizations, first aid, and medication administration. But the aim would go beyond that to cover mental health care and other services, not yet designated.

Whatever services are developed by the director, the school board would have final authority over what the center would offer to students, said Koprowski.

If approved, the center would be the only Student Health Center in a public high school in rural Greater Minnesota, with the others located in the Twin Cities area and Duluth. As a center in an area with more traditional values, the center would not be offering any reproductive services or contraception, said both Haun and Bosma.

&uot;We recognize the need to operate within the values of the community,&uot; Haun said, although she knows that health centers in schools often become stereotyped as controversial because of the types of services they are often alleged to provide.

&uot;The stereotype doesn’t fit the model we are trying to build here,&uot; she said. If students have questions about reproductive issues, they will be referred to their own medical provider or some other appropriate agency, said Haun.

Supporters want to keep the emphasis on the positives that the center would provide for students, and on how different groups within the community have joined forces to work on this idea.

&uot;This is a positive thing for our community, with all of these different agencies working together.

Supporters hope to have board approval by the beginning of June.