In the past, a child’s cold could cause missed classes and piles of make-up assignments. It meant parents had to take time off from work for a doctor’s visit. It meant headaches for both parent and child.
Baptist Health Paducah has teamed up with Four Rivers Behavioral Health and with Paducah and McCracken County public schools to change that. They have established clinics in area schools that offer immediate and hassle-free care for students, faculty, and families.
Dona Rains, Baptist Health Paducah director of community outreach, said the idea for the clinics developed a little more than two years ago. “We began by discussing our mutual goal with the schools,” she said, “and it was pretty straightforward. We wanted to improve access to health care, so if anyone working at or attending the school needed medical attention, they wouldn’t have to miss valuable class time to get it.”
In August 2015, clinics opened in three city and county schools. Since then, nurses from Baptist Health Paducah have provided care for minor illnesses and injuries and have performed physicals, while licensed or certified clinicians from Four Rivers Behavioral Health have offered behavioral counseling.
The organizations also provide additional services such as health and behavioral trainings and screenings. They turn no one away because they can’t pay. In fact, the clinics handle billing and insurance filings and don’t accept payment at the time of treatment.
These clinics, Rains stresses, are not designed to take the place of primary care providers and only offer supplemental care. The staff shares reports with a patient’s physician to maintain continuity.
Family Nurse Practitioner Michelle Wilson has served the Paducah Tilghman High School clinic since it started. She says while the clinics only provide supplemental services, they give a type of care some students otherwise might not receive at all. Parents are grateful. “I hear, sometimes on a daily basis, ‘I don’t know what I would do if you weren’t here,’” she says.
The community has responded so well that in August 2016, Baptist Health Paducah expanded the program to serve students throughout Paducah and McCracken County. The clinics have become popular because of their unique balance of physical and mental health care as well as their convenient locations. Gretchen Roof, Four Rivers Vice President of Clinical Services, says providing dual services in schools creates a holistic level of service.
“Just the integration of the physical and the mental is so important because so many of those things feed off one another,” she says. “If you have certain chronic health conditions, those can cause some level of depression or anxiety. So, it’s nice when we can be in a clinic and the person treating the physical issues can also collaborate with the person treating the emotional issues.”
Jamey Locke, Baptist Health executive director of regional operations, said the clinics are offering vaccinations funded by the federal government to children from uninsured and under-insured families, so they can meet public school requirements.
“Those programs are invaluable to this community,” he says. “What they’re doing out there—keeping kids in school and keeping kids healthy—it has been an outstanding partnership.”
And, it has been a unique one. No other Kentucky Baptist Health hospitals have established school clinics.