If approved, the clinic would be run by the Teche Action Clinic, a private, not-for-profit healthcare provider that runs four school-based health clinics and one mobile unit across St. Mary and St. John parishes. Teche has operated broader community health clinics in Terrebonne, Lafourche and surrounding areas for years.
Louisiana currently has 66 school-based centers, meant to be “one-stop shops” to address students’ health needs, said Dr. Gary Wiltz, Teche’s chief executive officer.
By placing it inside the school, the clinic meets students and parents where they are rather than forcing a parent to take off work for a doctor’s appointment. “To me, it’s just a great opportunity to provide access to students for healthcare,” Wiltz said. “It reduces absenteeism.”
If the school board approves, a school-based clinic could be running by the fall, he said.
Wiltz and other members of the Teche Action Clinic’s staff presented the plan to the School Board during committee meetings last Tuesday. The Education, Technology and Policy Committee agreed to let Wiltz conduct an assessment to determine which schools might have the highest need. Of those, the one with access to the largest population will probably be selected, he said.
After 10 years with a school-based health center, West St. Mary High, near Baldwin, improved its academic outcomes from a D-rated school to a B-plus, Wiltz said. The school’s administrators have attributed some of that success to the clinic’s presence, he said. The number of visits to the clinic per year increased from 1,347 in 2009 to 3,596 last year in a school where 87 percent of the students were on Medicaid, the government subsidized health insurance program for low-income residents.
At the start of the school year, under the Terrebonne proposal students would receive comprehensive screenings that would review physical and mental health and vaccinations. The school-based clinics are mostly self-sustaining after the initial investment as they bill insurance for services, Wiltz said. Teche would take on all of the cost in the partnership, while the School Board provides access and supervision.
None of the members opposed the clinic’s creation, though President Debi Benoit had questions about how the board would be able to oversee the clinic properly.
The board and Teche would have to sign an agreement that provides guidelines for the clinic’s operations, officials said.
There’s no word on when the board will make a decision.