Schools search for clinic solution

By Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor

Portales Municipal Schools is facing the challenge of re-establishing a desperately needed school-based health clinic, according to the school administrator.

Portales schools have been without a clinic since late last month when La Casa Family Health Center discontinued its contract service with the New Mexico Department of Health.

Now school officials are left to grapple with doing it the state’s way or doing it on their own.

Dr. Jane McGrath, school health officer for the state, gave a slide presentation at Monday’s school board meeting on the purposes of school-based health clinics. She said the governor’s health care initiative calls for a school-based clinic in each county.

Portales Schools Superintendent Randy Fowler pointed out to McGrath one of the big sticking points was the $100,000 in funding for a portable building that would be used as a new clinic. After being OK’d earlier in the year, state funding was stopped on Dec. 1 after a November site visit by state officials during which they said they discovered discrepancies with state rules.

Among those differences were the Portales clinic was requiring parents to be available when their child was being treated, which the state said defeats the purpose of having a clinic at school. They also said only students should be treated at the clinic. La Casa has been serving faculty as well as overflow from its main family clinic at the school.

“We don’t feel we would be able to attract those professional services on the budget the state is providing,” Fowler said.

“Your concerns are legitimate,” McGrath answered. “Finances for school-based health clinics are not generous.”

She and other officials suggested creative solutions such as hiring a coordinator who might work to get services donated or at low cost.

“We would just like to have the funds to do what you’re asking for,” Fowler said.

“We’re afraid this is another situation where we’re being asked to do more with less.”

Seferino Montano, chief executive officer of La Casa Health Center, said he believes state officials are offering an oversimplification of what it takes to run a health clinic.

“It’s rather a difficult task for a school to take on because there are too many factors,” Montano said.

He said La Casa operates a school clinic in Clovis as well. That district recently decided to drop state funding and stay with La Casa due to the same issues. He says
La Casa would love to return to Portales schools if differences are worked out with the state or if the district decides to forego state funding.

Fowler, who said he deeply appreciates how critical a clinic is, plans further study of the options to determine the best approach.

By the numbers

$85,000 — Operational Budget from state for Portales clinic
$100,000 — Funding state has promised for modular clinic building
$150,000 — Price PMS estimates for completing the building
29 — Number of new school-based health clinics in the state
63 — Total number of school-based health clinics in the state

Source: Portales Municipal Schools administration and New Mexico Department of Health