HealthFirst Bluegrass opens middle school clinic in LTMS
After the launch of a health clinic inside Lexington Traditional Magnet School, families need no longer worry about a drop-off in care when their children reach middle school. Many LTMS students attended Harrison Elementary or William Wells Brown Elementary, both of which have community clinics offering medical and dental services. With a Youth Services Center and a 21st Century After-School Program already in place at LTMS, the new health clinic will further broaden the school’s support network. “We want to meet the needs right away,” said Principal Larry Caudill. “We can take care of the flu and all the factors that would lead to a student missing a lot of school. We also have a mental health worker to address hidden needs.”
The clinic’s full-time staff includes a registered nurse, a family nurse practitioner, a behavioral health therapist, and a clerk; a psychiatric nurse practitioner will be on duty one day a week. Plans call for later adding dental services as with the elementary clinics, where a team stops by once a week and mobile units visit twice a year.
“The partnership is already established so this was a really easy transition,” Caudill said, referring to HealthFirst Bluegrass operating the Healthy Kids Clinics for Fayette County Public Schools. In addition to Harrison and William Wells Brown, HealthFirst runs clinics at Arlington, Booker T. Washington, Breckinridge, Cardinal Valley, Mary Todd, and Tates Creek elementaries. LTMS is the first middle school site; it will be open 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays, and the number is (859) 381-3203.
These clinics function like a regular doctor’s office and can handle some issues at school without parents/guardians having to leave work, such as ADHD services, sick visits, and mental health counseling. Families can also make appointments for school physical exams, sports physicals, and immunizations. HealthFirst accepts Medicare, Medicaid, and most private insurance plans, and any FCPS student can visit any clinic with a completed and signed consent packet on file.
Some students use the clinic staff as their primary care providers; others pop in as the need arises, such as a headache in class or a skinned knee on the playground. “We see any and all. We offer a full, comprehensive model to meet students’ needs right there where they go to school,” said Malia Jackson, the school clinic manager for HealthFirst. “Once we’re established, we have a high rate of consent returns where we’re able to serve 90-plus percent of the school.”
Health clinics have been a mainstay in FCPS for 25 years. Talk of expansion at the middle school level began about a year ago. “We’re excited to get in there and get started,” Jackson said of the LTMS site. “It’ll be neat to see those kids as we’ve followed them through elementary school. It’ll also be a learning process for all of us with the different issues that come along with middle school.” With the older students, Jackson also hopes to elicit feedback ranging from health concerns to artwork on the clinic walls.
Debbie Boian, the health services coordinator for FCPS, said LTMS was selected largely because of the high percentage of free-and-reduced meal qualifiers from its feeder schools. As federally qualified community health centers, the clinics deliver services regardless of students’ ability to pay. “This is a way to eliminate the health barriers to them getting an education,” Boian said.
Overall, the clinic partnership works well because FCPS provides the space – through school renovations or construction – and HealthFirst provides the staff. Boian deems it a win-win for the district. So what comes next? “We’ll be putting a clinic in the new Tates Creek High School,” she said. “It’s already in the design.”