Safety is a concern because schools do not want strangers wandering around their grounds. A health center open to the public typically needs two entrances — one from the school for students and another street entrance for adults, and may require longer hours, as well as different equipment and staff, such as internist, to deal with adult health problems.
Security issues have prevented a number of clinics in Connecticut from expanding because they’re located within older school buildings, noted Jesse White-Frese, executive director of the Connecticut Association of School Based Health Centers. The state has one school clinic open to the public in north New Haven.
Another key issue is privacy for adolescents, who may be seeking contraception, pregnancy tests or treatment for sexually transmitted infections and might shy away from going to a place where they could run into someone they know.
At Garfield High School in East Los Angeles, the clinic is installing a partition to divide the center into two areas after realizing students could feel the waiting room was a little too open, said Rafael Gonzalez-Amezcua, medical services director for Bienvenidos, the nonprofit health care agency running the center.
‘‘It’s a little tricky,’’ he said. ‘‘The staff will keep the two groups separate. We want the kids to enjoy true privacy.’’
Experts say the combo clinic is an efficient way of delivering low-cost health care, but note that the school-based health center’s primary mission is kids. School clinics often serve a role in student health education and even provide professional role models for kids who lack exposure to career paths , said Julia Lear, senior adviser to the Center for Health and Health Care in Schools at George Washington University.
‘‘Historically, the health care system has not treated children well because the truly interesting money is in adults. These programs were driven by that gap in care for kids,’’ she said. ‘‘You don’t want to lose that.’’
For working-class immigrant communities like East Los Angeles, where many people work in jobs that do provide medical insurance, residents said the Garfield High School clinic was a welcome relief for families.
Kids said they'll now be able to try out for school sports teams because they'll be able to get the required physicals their parents can’t afford, while parents said they can get help for asthma, diabetes and general stress without worrying about how they'll be able to pay.
Mariela Ortiz, who has no medical insurance, said she’s planning to get tetanus shots for her two kids. ‘‘Everybody was waiting for this,’’ she said.
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