Malvern High School awarded funds for health center

By Wayne Bryan Published June 5, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.
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Gurdon High School student Anna Mae Clark, left, gets her ears checked by Gurdon Wellness Center registered nurse Cassie Winkelmeyer at the school’s Wellness Center in 2012. A similar clinic has been funded by state agencies for Malvern High School. The Malvern student wellness center is scheduled to open at the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year.

MALVERN — A student who gets sick, especially with a chronic condition, can miss a lot of school for doctor’s visits, tests and checkups. It can get even worse when the parents cannot afford medical care or have no way to get the student to a doctor’s office. Recovery time is longer, and over time, the student’s general health can be compromised.

Malvern students will receive help in reducing time lost to illness when the Malvern School District opens an in-school clinic during the next school year for those who might not otherwise receive medical treatment.

The Arkansas Department of Education, the Arkansas Department of Health and the Arkansas Medicaid in the School program announced on May 27 that they had awarded funds for an in-school clinic to be created at Malvern High School.

“We cannot use the state funds to build a new facility, but we are renovating a former chiropractor’s office across the street from the school gym,” said Faye Williams, school health coordinator for the Malvern School District, who will be co-director of the Malvern Schools Health and Wellness Center. “It is right between the high school and the middle school. If the school nurse feels there is a need, the students will be escorted to the center, with parental consent.”

The funds are awarded to school districts in an effort to promote health, wellness and academic achievement among public schools. The funds were awarded to Malvern, along with the Southside School District in Batesville and the Cedar Ridge School District.

“Studies show that students perform better academically when they have access to quality health care,” said Tom Kimbrell, Education Department commissioner, when the funds were announced last week. “The medical services provided will have a positive impact on student achievement and will promote a lifetime of wellness.”

Kimbrell was recently hired as the new superintendent of the Bryant School District.

In order to meet state requirements, the centers are required to offer physical-health services, mental- and behavioral-health services, and school health-outreach programs based on student and community needs. Each center must also have a health care professional on-site for a minimum of 12 hours per week. The centers will offer the services not usually handled by the high school nurse.

Malvern school officials and local health-service providers design the centers based on student and community needs. Some centers are open to students, district employees and the community. Many of these centers offer other services, such as dental and optical care, in addition to the required services.

“We have established a partnership with Healthy Connections of Mena and Hot Springs that will supply either an M.D. or an APN, an advanced-practice nurse, to be at the clinic,” Williams said. “We have also made arrangements to have a local dentist from Williams Family Dentistry come to the center one day a week to provide dental-health screenings.”

Williams, who will share leadership of the center with Terri Bryant, the director of school improvement and dropout prevention for the Malvern School System, said they are looking at resources that will allow the wellness center to have dental equipment at little or no charge.

“The schools are required to have professional medical care available at the center for a minimum of 12 hours a week,” Williams said. “With the dentist, the doctor or an APN, we will have coverage for 40-plus hours a week.”

There are 20 school clinics funded under the program, including one in Gurdon that opened at the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year.

“The bottom line is to keep the kids well enough to keep them on campus and in their classes,” Tommie Campbell, Gurdon High School principal, said when the clinic first opened. “It is hard to teach students if they are not in class.”

Receiving additional federal funds through a grant from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration under a program created by the Affordable Care Act, the Gurdon School District built a new facility at the high school as a wellness center.

The center supports academic achievement with a focus on prevention of health problems, Campbell said.

Some of the students who come to the wellness center could not receive the extensive care they need without leaving school for long periods of time, said Cassie Winkelmeyer, the registered nurse for the clinic.

“We have had students who must have their blood pressure checked three times a day,” Winkelmeyer said. “We have students who receive their medications for chronic conditions here in the center. In the meantime, we handle sports injuries, give out allergy medications, and we can do exams such as those required to play sports.”

Williams stressed that Malvern’s school wellness center will not take patients away from local physicians. Most of the students who will come to the clinic are those who would not have been able to see doctors because of a lack of transportation.

“We’re very excited and working to get the center up and going by the beginning of the next school year,” Williams said.

Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at (501) 244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

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