By Jack Gurner
WATER VALLEY – School Board Trustees were asked to consider allowing a private firm to establish a medical clinic in the schools at their recessed meeting Friday, Nov. 19.
Leresha Gerard of Grenada, Administrator for Healthy Me Clinic, told the Board that her company could provide the services of a complete medical clinic inside the school with a nurse practitioner.
Gerard, a 1983 graduate of WVHS, explained that her company had already contracted with the Coffeeville School District and the MAP Head Start program in Water Valley and would like to expand to Water Valley schools.
“A lot of the schools are diverting to these types of services,” she said. “Some of them because of the budget cuts.”
The clinic would not cost the school district anything, Gerard continued. The company would bill private insurers and programs such as Medicaid. “All we ask is that we have a sufficient room to operate in,” she said.
Trustee Dr. Steve Edwards asked where a child would be referred if additional tests were needed. Gerard answered that the child would be referred wherever the parents wanted or to their collaborating physician in Water Valley, Dr. Dee Milicevic.
Trustee Taylor Trusty asked how many hours the clinic would be open. Gerard said that initially the open hours would be split with Coffeeville. Then, in the fall, the clinic would be open full time.
Trustee Pierce Epps asked if the youngsters needed prior permission from their parents to come to the clinic. Gerard said that was preferred. “I like the consent from the parent.” But, she explained that anyone can be seen one time without consent.
Edwards asked Gerard to explain how this healthcare model improved the care of the youngsters as opposed to them going to a local healthcare facility. “Has there been a needs analysis or any studies to show that things were taken care of sooner or better? How are our kids going to benefit?”
Gerard answered that the youngsters would receive treatment faster. She said that the nurse practitioner would evaluate the child’s condition and call the parents if the child needed to go home. But, in most cases, the student would stay in school and continue their studies.
“I feel the care is pretty much the same as going to a doctor’s office because just about every doctor’s office you go to has a nurse practitioner. And, a lot of times that’s who you see.”
Gerard said that the nurse practitioners at the clinic are Mississippi Board Certified and the one working in Yalobusha County had worked before in a children’s clinic.
Dr. Moran said that she had experience with this type of service on the elementary and high school level. “I find that it is very good for excused and unexcused documentation.”
She explained that a child who claims to be sick can be checked by the nurse practitioner and if they aren’t really ill, they can be sent back to class.
Epps asked if parental consent was needed before a student could receive reproductive counseling. Gerard said that for family planning or pregnancy counseling, a parent is not required to sign anything. She added that is true all over the country. “They can be 12 years old and want birth control and if they don’t want their parent to know, you can’t tell them.”
After several more minutes of discussion, Board President Lamar Burgess said that he didn’t see a great cause for concern. “If we delay a vote it’s just going to limit the amount of time they would have to get prepared.”
Trusty said, “I do have concerns, Lamar.” Board members Epps and Edwards said they had concerns as well.
Trusty continued: “We have an existing medical community here. If we desire these type services, we should at least give them an opportunity. Over the past thirty years they have provided us sports physicals and things like that at no cost.”
Edwards commented that he didn’t feel that Gerard had answered his question on how local children would receive better care. “You provided a way, but I can’t say that it is a better way. You shortened the road to the south end of town three miles. I don’t know how that takes care of our children better.”
Edwards added that there were also continuity of care issues. “How you take care of people is continuing and cumulative.”
Edwards also said that if this model would improve the care for our children, he would consider it. “I don’t see where this does that.”
Gerard noted that many of the screenings provided by her clinic were services that the children were not getting anyway.
After some additional discussion, Burgess said that the general consensus is that the matter needs to be tabled until the next board meeting scheduled for Dec. 16 at noon.