Although it’s still in the planning stage, proponents of a proposed school-based health clinic at Glenn Hills High School said Tuesday it could increase access to primary care and expand health education opportunities for students.
The clinic, a partnership between the Richmond County School System and local health agencies, would be the first of its kind in the county and one of several in the works across the state.
Robert Pendergrast, an associate professor of pediatrics at Georgia Health Sciences University, said the goal is to have a full-time physician on site to treat minor illnesses and provide checkups, immunizations and screenings.
“It takes health care where the child is,” Pendergrast said. “It has the potential for creating a great deal of better access for kids.”
Funding and structure for the clinic are still being determined, but Pendergrast said he expects it to open this summer.
Carol Rountree, the Richmond County director of student services, said the district will apply for grants to run the clinic.
The school is already partnering with these health agencies on a smaller scale. Nurses from the Richmond County Health Department visit the school twice a month to provide health education about diet, diabetes and high blood pressure.
Two counselors from Jones Behavioral Mental Health Center also work with students with parental consent.
Representative from the two agencies said Tuesday they’d like their services to be available for students whenever the school is open. Kim Whitfield, whose son is a senior at Glenn Hills, said she supports the idea for the clinic, but still has a lot of unanswered questions.
“It seems like it would be something beneficial to the school,” Whitfield said. “At the last minute, I’m always having to run out to get physicals for my son, so having a doctor right at the school would help.”
A few of the roughly 30 people at the forum had other concerns. Susan Swanson, the director of the Augusta Care Pregnancy Center, questioned whether abortion services would be offered at the school.
Carol Bryant, a nurse manager for the health department, said the proposed clinic would not offer contraceptives, abortions or gynecological examinations.
While the project still has several unknowns, Rountree said the clinic could greatly increase access and improve health care for the Glenn Hills community.
“I believe it has the promise to be around for a long time to come,” she said.