Free clinic to open at elementary school

The Shenandoah Valley-Herald

QUICKSBURG — The Shenandoah Community Health Clinic is opening a free clinic for children who attend school in the county’s southern campus on Sept. 11.

The clinic, called the Wellness Center, will offer free medical, dental and mental health care to low-income students. Services include physicals, fillings, sealants, fluoride treatments and counseling sessions, according to Deborah Litten, student services supervisor for SCPS.

A nurse practitioner from the Woodstock-based clinic will offer medical check-ups on Sept. 11, with a clinical psychologist providing mental health counseling on Sept. 18 and a dentist arriving on Sept. 25.

After that date, the Wellness Center will be open during school hours Mondays through Fridays, Pam Murphy, the Community Health Clinic’s director, said on Tuesday.

The center will be in a former classroom at Ashby Lee. Because of space constraints, clinic staff will offer a different service every day, Murphy said.

No hard schedule has been set on which services will be available when because staff doesn’t know how many patients to expect, Murphy said.

Services will be restricted to students at Ashby Lee, North Fork Middle and Stonewall Jackson High at first, she added, but the clinic hopes to eventually expand the center’s outreach.

“We’ll see what works best,” she said. “We’ll start with just being open during the school day in the beginning, and we’ll figure out how much capacity students take. In the future, we hope to have families in for counseling and after-school medical care.”

The center is funded through private donations and grants, including one for $20,000 from The Foundation of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. Grace United Church of Christ in Mount Jackson also donated $10,000, Murphy said.

The center has an estimated two-year budget of $500,000, Murphy said.

The clinic chose the Quicksburg area because it contains the county’s highest concentration of low-income students, according to Karen Whetzel, chairwoman of the county School Board.

About 57 percent of Ashby Lee students received free or reduced-price meals during the 2016-17 school year, the highest rate among the county’s nine public schools, according to data from the Virginia Department of Education.

By the same data, 44 percent of North Fork students and 46 percent of Stonewall Jackson students received free or reduced-price meals that year as well.

The center’s goal is to widen health care access to people in the county’s rural areas, Litten said.

“I have to drive 30 to 40 miles either way for anything,” she said, portraying someone who lives in the Quicksburg area. “I have to drive either to Harrisonburg or Winchester, and I don’t have the gas or I don’t have the transportation.”

Whetzel called the Wellness Center “a win-win” for the school division and low-income students who otherwise may not be able to afford health care.

“If you’re not healthy,” she said, “you can’t learn.

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