School clinics stay open despite budget cuts

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Capital News Service
LANSING— Thanks to a school clinic, Jasmine Magalski doesn’t have to leave school every Wednesday to get her allergy shots.
The clinic at Alcona Elementary is one of 69 school clinics that lost state aid with the latest budget cuts.
It and the others remain open, but with 10 percent less state aid, said Kyle Gerrant, supervisor of coordinated school health and safety programs at the Department of Education.
Magalski’s mother, Chelsea Travis, is thankful.
“She is able to get treatment without leaving school instead of treatments taking time away from her education, and I think that is really important,” Travis said.
Because clinic services are available, parents don’t have to leave work to pick up sick children or take them to medical appointments, said Paula Welling, a nurse practitioner at the clinic, which is coordinated by the Alcona Health Center.
Christine Baumgardner, executive director of Alcona Health Center, said, “It is so hard to get these services up here anyways, virtually impossible, and we can do this at no cost to the families.”
The clinic, now in its third year, provides on-site primary health care, counseling services, health promotion, disease prevention and education services.
According to Welling, many students also receive asthma treatment and behavior counseling at the clinic.
The school saw a 65 percent decrease in bullying and harassment reports from the 2005-06 to 2006-07 school year due to behavior counseling, Welling said.
The Alcona clinic also runs health promotion activities such as nutrition, fitness and weight management programs.
Welling said the Education Department recognizes that each community is different, so clinics are encouraged to specialize to meet local needs.
Alcona has one of the few elementary school clinics. Most are at middle or high schools, said Welling.
Nearby, Onaway High School opened a clinic this fall.
Guerrant said the state wanted to provide grants for six new clinics this year, but because of budget cuts it was able to only fund three.
Baumgardner said it’s uncertain how Alcona Elementary will cope with the budget cuts. Options include continuing the current program on $25,000 less in state aid or cutting hours.
“I understand the state is trying hard to keep these clinics so we’re going to do our best to accommodate the lower grant dollars,” she said.
Welling said parents have been vocal about the need to continue the program, sending letters to the Legislature and testifying at community meetings.
“It’s working, because we are still here,” she said.
Baumgardner adds, “If the state is looking for programs that give you a phenomenal bang for your buck, school-based clinics are doing it.”
© 2009, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.

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