Access plans to partner with schools
Douglas: ‘There is no question that mental health is a real concern’
The Wheaton school district and Access Family Care Clinic are considering the possibility of opening a clinic on the Wheaton school campus.
Lance Massey, Wheaton superintendent, said the conversation to this point has been one of him asking the board if they think the idea of a clinic on campus is something they would like to entertain.
“I have heard from Access medical that they have a board of directors that have discussed partnering with Wheaton schools for a clinic,” he said. “At this point, both entities have said, ‘Yes, we would like to explore that possibility.’”
According to Massey, the school is at a point now of looking into what that partnership would look like.
“They have sent someone down to draw up some plans, as far as, what kind of renovation we may have to do to bring this into reality,” he said. “The entire discussion is still very preliminary in talk.”
Massey said the project would be a large one.
“Even if everything went perfectly, that timeline wouldn’t even be the start of the next school year,” he said. “I believe that their vision is to have a clinic on campus.”
According to Massey, the Wheaton school district has not committed any money toward renovation to the campus for the clinic, and neither has Access.
“At this point, we don’t know if those would be a district or Access cost,” he said. “The first step in the process would be to determine what renovations would be needed. Then, we’d figure out how much those would cost.”
Massey said after the costs are put together, the two entities would discuss responsibility.
“A clinic on campus would help us with both staff and students,” he said. “The idea that there could be additional education for students because they would have access to an onsite doctor is impressive.”
Massey said the part that makes it a potential for Access is that it could better help the Wheaton community.
“When talking about a walk-in clinic on campus that is open to the public, we also have our students and their safety in mind,” he said. “We wouldn’t put something on campus that could potentially create a weak point for us in school safety.”
Steve Douglas, Access marketing and public relations coordinator, said Access has obtained a grant that will give them funding to provide mental health services someplace in their service region.
“We cover seven counties, and we have a grant that will provide rural mental health via telemedicine,” he said. “We have been working on reaching out to partners, and Wheaton is a school that we have identified because, demographically, they are isolated from a lot of different providers.”
Douglas said that he agrees with Massey that everything is in a preliminary stage and discussion.
“We hope to make a decision in the next couple of months, so that preparation for something to be done in the next school year can be made,” he said. “It will depend on what the Wheaton school board, and our board of directors, decide to do.”
According to Douglas, the grant available only covers a mental health clinic.
“We have had discussions about both a medical clinic and a mental health clinic,” he said. “The grant covers the mental health side, and it covers a nurse practitioner that can be there. With everything still so preliminary, we don’t know yet if the nurse practitioner would be able to treat the patients for anything.”
According to Douglas, a psychiatrist and a nurse practitioner will be funded through the grant.
“The way that works, is if a person needed mental health care, they would see a psychiatrist in person for the first visit, then they could follow up, if the diagnosis allows, they would follow up with a telemedicine,” he said. “When we applied for the grant, we had reached out to Wheaton school district and another school district to see if they would be interested, and both have shown interest.”
Douglas said it would be ideal to have a mental health clinic on a school campus.
“The idea is to keep students in school, and to give them easier access to those services,” he said. “Having a clinic on campus will help keep students from missing school, but that hasn’t been determined yet.”
Douglas said Access is trying to support schools inside of their service area.
“There is no question that mental health is a real concern,” he said. “We want to do what we can to reduce mental health issues, we would also like to partner with the Clark Center because they serve the same area.
“People who don’t work with children under 17 years old don’t understand the serious mental health issues that are happening nationwide.”
Douglas said Access wants to support Barry County, help children and change lives.