School-Based Clinic Serves All — East Feliciana Parish, Louisiana


Last Updated: April 01, 2006
 

This article appeared in the April 2006 Rural Policy Matters.

Introduction

East Feliciana Parish school district and RKM-Primary Care Clinic collaborated to create a school-based health clinic — two in fact. The first clinic, at Clinton Middle School, was the only clinic in the parish (county) when it opened. Since then, RKM-Primary Care has expanded to open clinics in the community and also its second school-based clinic at the Jackson School complex. The partnership has benefited both the school and community residents in a variety of ways.

Background  

East Feliciana Parish is located north of Baton Rouge on the Mississippi state line. It has a population of about 21,000 people. Many residents work in one of the several state correctional facilities or the state mental hospital located in the parish. The parish population is 47% African American and 52% white. About 23% of residents have incomes below the federal poverty level.  

Enrollment in the district has fallen sharply in recent years, although that turned around somewhat this past fall, when a number of families moved to East Feliciana after losing their homes to Hurricanes Katrina or Rita. Current enrollment is about 2,300. About 80% of students in the district are African American and 20% are white; about 84% of students qualify for free or reduced price lunches.

Before the primary care clinic began operating, East Feliciana Parish had no hospital or clinic other than the public health clinic, and residents had to drive to Baton Rouge for most medical service. Families who didn't have transportation had particular difficulty getting timely health care. Many residents only sought medical care for emergencies or when a condition became acute. The inaccessibility of health care had an impact on the schools in particular. Some students were absent for conditions that could have been treated quickly; others were in school when they were sick; still others had chronic conditions that needed more medical oversight.

Early Development

Things began to change in 1999 when Ginger Hunt, a local resident and family nurse practitioner, approached Dr. Daisy Slan, who was the school superintendent at the time, and the local school board about the possibility of creating a school-based health clinic. "The middle grades are when health care really begins to fall off," Hunt says. "Children are outgrowing common early childhood ailments and no longer need baby care, and families, especially those whose access to health care is limited, often don't realize that their kids still need medical care."

The school board and Dr. Slan were interested. They knew that many kids were not getting the medical attention they needed. They also saw a need for more mental health and social work support

The school board agreed to renovate space in one of the schools for the clinic and to cover the costs of maintenance, cleaning, and utilities. Hunt wrote and received a grant for school-based heath programs from the Louisiana Office of Public Health to start the clinic.

Program     

RKM-Primary Care Clinic was opened in Clinton Middle School in February 2000. The success of the clinic and subsequent public and private grants enabled the clinic to expand and open an additional facility in the community.

The clinic is staffed by Nurse Practitioners, Registered Nurses, and licensed Social Workers. It also has a full-time dentist and a dental hygienist. Three doctors in the community collaborate with the clinic, which also has an extensive referral network and works with specialists as needed. The clinic has a pharmacy and provides radiography (x-ray) services, and outsources to provide mental health services. This holistic approach serves both the school and community well.

The clinic and school work closely. Every year the school gets permission slips from parents for their children to be treated at the clinic. The clinic provides annual check ups and athletics physicals for all students who have parental permission. It also provides on-site emergency care.

The school nurses in East Feliciana collaborated in the development of the clinic and continue to work directly with students, make referrals, and arrange transportation and other services. They also partner with the clinic to develop health education materials and programs and are responsible for ensuring compliance with State Department of Education requirements.

This year, the clinic expanded again and opened another school-based clinic at the Jackson School (pre-K-12) complex. This expansion was possible, in part, because of support received on behalf of hurricane evacuees relocated to the parish.

All clinics are open to the community. RKM-Primary Care is a federally qualified health center, which enables its clinics to take Medicare and Medicaid. RKM recently purchased a van that will be used to transport students from other parish schools to the clinics.

The school district has seen benefits of having the clinics in the schools, reports Jackie Lacy, Supervisor for Child Welfare and Attendance. "We know that when kids are healthier, they behave and learn better. The clinic has also been a big help with our medically fragile students. Our attendance is above the state average."

Ginger Hunt says that the clinics operate very efficiently, which means they can provide a lot of care and see patients often and still keep costs low. Most of its patients were people who were not regular patients of other care providers, so the clinic has not created competition in the community.

The mutually beneficial collaboration between RKM-Primary Care and East Feliciana School district has meant that a lot of children and families in the parish are finally getting the regular medical care that they need.

Lessons Learned

  • Collaboration is essential; it must happen from the beginning and include all the people who will be doing the work and developing the plan for working together.
  • This kind of project is a lot of work. It takes about five years to work out all the kinks and operate without a deficit.
  • Start slow and grow. Look at the resources you already have and figure out where they are and how they can be woven together to create what you need.
  • Make sure the collaboration represents everyone and demonstrates its commitment to the common good.

Contact Information

East Feliciana Parish Schools
P.O. Box 397
Clinton, LA  70722
(225) 683-3040

RKM-Primary Care School
12126 Liberty St.
Clinton, LA  70722
(225) 683-8877

Dr. Daisy Slan, former Superintendent, East Feliciana Parish Schools
1015 Roseway Boulevard
Zachary, LA 70791
(225) 658-7648
(225) 658-7633 Fax
dslan01@yahoo.com

School Demographic Information (2003-04)

District Enrollment:  2,369
Grades Served: Pre-K–12
Percent of Students Eligible for Free/Reduced Lunches:  84%
Percent Students who are English Language Learners:  <1%
 

Percent of Student Population:
     American Indian/Alaskan Native:  0%
     Asian/Pacific Islander: <1%
     Black, not Hispanic:  80%
     Hispanic:  0%
     White, not Hispanic: 20%

Read more from the April 2006 Rural Policy Matters.



Related Categories: Rural Policy Matters

Related Tags: School-Community Partnerships