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Dolores school-based health clinic now open

Site will offer crucial services to community, providers say
Staff at the new Dolores school-based health clinic prepare for the Harry Potter-themed Schoolarama with some potions materials. From left: Debrah Archer, Shannon Wells, Rebecca Gostlin, Vickie Martinez and Julie Hite.

After over a year of planning, design, and construction, the school-based health clinic in Dolores is up and running.

The clinic, modeled after its partner site at the Southwest Open School in Cortez, opened its doors in November and aims to care for students’ physical, mental and behavioral health, all on-campus.

“If we can keep kids healthy, then we can keep them in school,” Julie Hite, a registered nurse with the clinic, said during the site’s open house last week. She and her fellow providers took part in the Dolores Elementary School’s Harry Potter-themed Schoolarama event, having students and families make “potions” as a way to learn about the nutritional benefits – something of ginger, almonds, and sweet potato chips.

The Dolores and SWOS sites now operate collectively as the “Four Corners Health Clinics.”

To build the Dolores clinic, the district received a $25,000 planning grant from the Colorado Department of Health and Environment and a $478,000 Colorado Health Foundation grant. It’s now situated at the edge of the elementary school, although they were providing services out of some shared space at the secondary school since the beginning of this school year, Hite said.

The center operates in partnership with the SWOS clinic, which opened in 1998. Both sites are staffed with a family nurse practitioner and a licensed professional counselor for two full days every week. Providers are usually at the SWOS clinic on Mondays and Wednesdays and at the Dolores clinic on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

A key benefit of a school-based health center, Hite said, is its convenient access for children. The health clinic is especially vital in Dolores because of the lack of providers after Dr. Allan Scott Burnside’s office closed.

“Many kids don’t have access to health care because they don’t have transportation or they don’t have insurance,” Hite said. “So we just help them with all that stuff being on-site.”

For patients without health insurance, the clinic charges on a sliding scale based on income and family size, according to the clinic’s website. Currently, payment ranges from $5 to $35 per visit.

When students stop by for a physical checkup, they also visit the behavioral health specialist as part of the clinic’s approach to integrated, holistic care. The specialist screens students for concerning behaviors or symptoms, but also reinforces positive actions, the providers said.

So far, people are still getting to know them, Martinez said. The behavioral health program has seen a lot of students coming through, though.

“Behavioral health is one of those things that it’s ongoing,” said Rebecca Gostlin, a licensed professional counselor at the clinic. “So just getting to Cortez is a barrier. When you have to go for three weeks in a row, that’s a lot of back-and-forth, taking off of work, getting a kid out of school. Being able to have it on-site for kids, that just takes one barrier out. So I think people have really realized it’s there, and they’re using it.”

The clinic will serve all students enrolled in the Dolores School District RE-4A, siblings under the age of 18 of enrolled students, Dolores alumni up to the age of 21 and any child in the Dolores community ages 5 and under.

ealvero@the-journal.com

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