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|WMHS health clinic prepares for move to new facility|
The school-based health clinic at West Monroe High School should locate in its permanent facility near the ROTC building by the end of the summer.
Currently, the clinic operates inside the school in a former faculty office.
Some 991 students enrolled at the clinic. Approximately 2,341 have used it since it opened at the start of the current school year in late August. Once the new facility opens, the clinic will begin seeing students from Boley Elementary and the Ouachita Parish Alternative Center. All students who visit the health clinic must have a parent's or guardian's approval which is handled through consent forms parents and students sign at the beginning of each school year.
Lori Gregory, billing supervisor for the West Monroe High School health clinic, said of the 2,341 students who visited the clinic, the majority of them are sick and not trying to get out of attending class. She said about 90 percent of them are given prescriptions, which are then taken to the parents to be filled at local pharmacies.
Ouachita Parish Schools Superintendent Dr. Bob Webber said, "This has been a tremendous help for the kids at West Monroe High School and we're so thankful the LivingWell Foundation decided to expand from the previous program at Riser School."
He said the health clinics are doing their job by keeping students in school. He said both the Riser and West Monroe clinics have cut down on absenteeism during the school year.
"Now, kids who might have missed three or four days, may only miss one day," Webber said. "It also affects our school performance scores. There's a part of the formula that's based on attendance, so this helps in a lot of ways."
LivingWell Foundation CEO Paul West said the two school-based health clinics are proof that partnerships between various entities can make a difference in the community.
"In this case, it's making a difference in the lives of our young people by being able to help them have a healthier lifestyle day to day," West said. "I think it makes them function better in school; if you don't feel well, you sure don't feel like studying, listening or being in class. By getting these services, they can hopefully feel better, function better and be more effective in the classroom and their lives."
The new facility near the ROTC building at WMHS will allow the clinic to provide services which is currently unavailable. These services include lab work such as in-depth health screenings and vaccinations.
One service that's now utilized regularly at the WMHS clinic is mental health screenings.
Beth Fueller, the clinic's mental health counselor, said teachers or principals have referred students who are having mental health issues such as anxiety, stress or depression.
"Sometimes they have relationship issues, or just stress that comes with being a student, and they might want to talk about it. I do some group counseling with them as well," Fueller said.
The counselors also work with at-risk students such as those who say they might harm themselves or others. However, the clinic doesn't prescribe any type of medication for mental health concerns. If a counselor determines a student needs medication, then that student is referred to a psychiatrist, which they can visit with a parent or guardian.
"They have a confidentiality agreement when they come in … what they say here is private information. The exception to that is if they tell us they are going to harm themselves, someone else, or if they have been abused. Those are the three reasons we'll break the confidentiality agreement. If a child comes in talking about killing himself, the parent is immediately contacted. Any time there is some self-destructive behavior, I try to involve the parent," Fueller said.
Fueller saw 100 students in January for mental health concerns, but half of those were repeat visits.
"Right now we're doing grief counseling … there's been three deaths in the school this year. Depression has been big and there's a lot of anxiety issues," Fueller said.
Webber said students have always had some mental health concerns, "but for whatever reason, today kids come to school with depression. So having counselors in this program is just another way of helping kids. We want to make sure our kids are happy and are doing the best," he said.