Health clinic could open near Amistad Elementary in Kennewick

By Ty Beaver, Tri-City HeraldJuly 6, 2013 

A Tri-City health care provider is considering opening a medical clinic next to Amistad Elementary School with the goal of serving Kennewick students, particularly those from low-income families.

The idea still is in the proposal stage, with Kennewick School District officials seeking community input from district residents through an online survey before moving forward with Tri-Cities Community Health. Superintendent Dave Bond said he's consulting with other districts which have similar clinics operating on their property.

"We're really in the information gathering stage at this point," he said.

While acknowledging there are concerns to resolve, district officials and those with Tri-Cities Community Health said the clinic could go far in improving student health and connecting them and their families to basic medical care.

"They're not set up to make money. They're set up to provide care to students with a real need," said Al Cordova, the health care provider's CEO.

The district began meeting with Tri-Cities Community Health about the clinic in May. Tri-Cities Community Health has received a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Health Resources and Service Administration to establish as many as two school-based health centers.

The grant would pay for building a clinic on district property, ideally near a school that needs better access to health care, according to documents provided by the district. However, it would be up to the provider to pay for the clinic's operations. Students would be charged based on ability to pay.

Cordova said there are about 30 such clinics in the state. While they generally provide primary care, the larger ones provide even more services, such as dental and mental health care.

"It just depends on the size, the scope and the need," Cordova said.

The proposal before the district identifies an empty lot next to Amistad and across from the district's administrative offices to the Tri-Cities Community Health. The health care provider then would build a 2,000-square-foot modular facility. No district money would be used to build or operate the clinic and all students would be eligible for services.

District and health officials said the site next to Amistad was selected because there is a concentration of low-income families that could be served. More than 95 percent of the school's 570 students qualify to receive reduced price or free lunches.

District officials do have some concerns with the proposal: the liability of having a medical facility on school grounds, the relationship between the clinic and the district's nursing staff and how the clinic would affect parking and security at Amistad.

Tri-Cities Community Health has told the district it isn't pressing for approval, but Cordova said such clinics do a lot to serve students. He said he set up 19 similar clinics at Texas schools for another health care provider before coming to the Tri-Cities. Their proximity to schools makes it easier to reach a group that can be difficult to get in for a doctor's appointment.

"I rarely see teenagers in our waiting rooms," he said of Tri-Cities Community Health's regular clinics.

Bond said the Kennewick School Board will revisit the issue July 17. He said he hopes to have resident feedback to help guide their decision.

Health clinic survey The Kennewick School Board is asking Kennewick residents to take an online survey about a Tri-City health care provider opening a clinic for students on district property. It can be accessed at TCCHSURVEY. The survey asks questions about whether the respondent has children at district schools, supports the idea of a student clinic and if they have any questions, concerns or comments. Results from the survey will be shared with board members at a July 17 meeting.

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