CareSTL Health opened its fourth school-based health clinic, the Husky Health Center at Hoech Middle School in St. Ann, which is in the Ritenour School District.
“Opening a school-based health center for our students makes it more convenient for them to receive the quality care they need to manage chronic conditions and improve their health, which ultimately optimizes their learning potential,” stated Ritenour Superintendent Chris Kilbride.
The clinic, which started operations on January 28, offers comprehensive health services during the school day, as research finds that school-based clinics increase student attendance and graduation rates. It is staffed by a pediatrician, nurse practitioner, registered medical assistant and a licensed clinical behavioral health consultant from CareSTL Health.
“Right now, we are offering physical and behavioral health services to all the students in the Ritenour School District,” said Jasmine Burris, director of School Based Health and Community Partnerships for CareSTL Health.
Children can be referred to the clinic by the school nurse, social worker, teacher, administrator or parent.
“If they have symptoms of the flu or strep throat or pink eye, they’ll be referred to the nurse at a school building,” Burris said.
“The nurse will look at them, and if they decide they need to be seen at the health center, they are more than welcome to come as long as we have consent on file for them.”
According to the district, more than 2,900 of its 6,300 students have chronic health conditions; and according to the Missouri Health Index, the three zip codes within the Ritenour School District are among the unhealthiest in Missouri, with the most cases of chronic illnesses, including asthma and diabetes.
Services at the clinic are free of charge and are open to students who currently are enrolled in Ritenour’s 10 schools and early childhood center.
“If a student does have insurance, we will bill their insurance, but no student will leave here with a bill,” Burris said. “And if they do not have insurance, as a federally qualified health center, we still see them.”
If a child needs medicine, clinic providers will write prescriptions.
“When they call the parents to inform them that they are going to write a prescription, they will verify what pharmacy they want the medication to be sent,” Burris said. “The only drugs we have are emergency supplies. So, if someone has an asthma attack we’ll be able to give them some albuterol, or if someone has an allergic reaction we can respond and give them an Epi-pen.”
Laamar Cunningham is a Ritenour parent who works as a registered nurse for the district at Marvin Elementary School in St. John. He said the clinic is good for district students and parents.
“What it means for me as a parent is that if my son or daughter needs to be seen for an acute illness, they don’t have to miss school,” Cunningham said. “When they come to the clinic, it’s counted as being still in school. I don’t have to take off work, and the district provides them with transportation to the center, which makes it better for me.”
Cunningham said Ritenour students also receive dental, vision and hearing screenings from health partners in the community.
Burris said that Husky Health is housed in a former immunization clinic that has been out of use for decades. She said that BJC HealthCare provided exam room tables and some other items needed for the clinic, “and we are really appreciative of them to be able to donate those materials to us.”
In addition to the newest clinic at Hoech Middle School, CareSTL Health operates a clinic at Hazelwood East High School, Fairview Elementary (in the Jennings School District), and Riverview Gardens High School.