|Larry Kantor/Courtesy photo|
Yavapai Regional Medical Centerís new Mobile Kids Health Clinic will roll to outlying area schools on Jan. 6. The project provides free health services to eligible uninsured and underinsured school children and their younger siblings.
Health care was a hot issue this past year, and the trend promises to continue in 2014. The quad-city area's biggest health care provider, Yavapai Regional Medical Center; is pro-active in the field.
Its latest innovation, slated to debut Jan. 6, is a mobile health clinic for youngsters that was two-and-a-half years in the making, and many Mayer Elementary and High School students will benefit directly.
The Partners for Healthy Students Mobile Clinic - to serve underinsured and uninsured children in school districts within YRMC's large territory - started in May 2011 as an email from a federal government agency to certified pediatric nurse practitioner Mary Ellen Sandeen about establishing a school-based clinic.
"The hospital had so much going on at the time, working on electronic records, I didn't do it," said Sandeen, the director for Partners for Healthy Students. "A year later, in May of 2012, it came across my email again."
This time, she paid heed to the Affordable Care Act Grants of School-Based Health Center Capital Program.
The grant offered three options: 1. build a new clinic, 2. renovate an existing clinic, or 3. build a mobile unit - and "that was the absolute ticket for us," Sandeen said.
Partners for Healthy Students already runs five clinics at schools around Yavapai County.
"We are a licensed outpatient treatment center by the Department of Health," Sandeen said. "It's not like we can just open our doors with a clinic. We provide a very safe environment for the public to come and see us."
James, Mick, M.D., has served as medical director since the program's inception in the fall of 1998.
The first clinic opened at Lake Valley Elementary in Prescott Valley, and Del Rio Elementary in Chino Valley launched its clinic a few weeks later, according to YRMC Community Outreach Manager Kenneth Boush. When the new Territorial Elementary School opened, the program moved there.
"They actually had planned for us," Boush said. "The health director at that time had designed it."
In Chino Valley, when school is in session, nurses see patients at Territorial Elementary every Wednesday and at the high school one day per month. In Prescott Valley.
Lake Valley Elementary still has a clinic, and Glassford Hill Middle School has added one. Those clinics take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Prescott Unified School District, which came on board about 2000, Boush said, currently has a Partners for Healthy Students clinic at Miller Valley Elementary on Thursdays.
The mobile clinic offered a brand new approach.
"It's an incredible opportunity to reach out to kids in outlying areas," Sandeen noted. "Even though they may have some kind of assistance, the biggest barrier is transportation. And kids are at school 50 percent of their time, anyway."
YRMC's administrative council decided to try for the grant as a means to expand, she said, using generous donations from community members to operate the clinic. Applying was up to her. It was her first-ever try at grant writing. She submitted her proposal in mid-July of 2012, and in December of the same year, the hospital was awarded the $388,000 grant.
The next step was to solicit bids to build the 38-foot, self-contained mobile clinic.
"It was a significant process to identify a national vendor," Sandeen said.
Five vendors submitted bids, and winner Farber Specialty Vehicle satisfied all requirements, put the bus-like clinic into production in Reynoldsburg, Ohio, this past summer, and delivered it Nov. 19.
The eye-catching unit, brightly painted in primary colors with oversized images of smiling children, features a slide-out waiting room and a wheelchair ramp, Boush said. It also has an externally mounted flat screen television with a public address system that can scan on wireless headphones, "tons of lockable storage" and on-board generators in case of emergency, but power pads for 50-amp plug-ins are installed at each school it will serve.
"They show up, plug in and provide health care," Boush said.
Keeping kids healthy is the top priority for Partners for Healthy Students. He said that's what Sandeen and program coordinator Nancy Gloyd have focused on.
"Healthy children are absent from school less. They feel good. They're able to focus, learn better and are more successful in school," Sandeen said.
The mobile unit will operate three days per week to start. Mondays, it will be in Prescott at Aspire Jr/Sr High School. Tuesdays, it's at Mayer - twice a month at the high school and twice at the elementary. Wednesdays are for Kirkland Elementary, with a half-day each month in Peeples Valley/Yarnell at Model Creek School.
Boush said Mayer Superintendent Dean Slaga, Mayer Elementary Principal Patti Leonard, and Mayer High Principal Jeff Duncan all were most helpful in bringing the program to their students.
Services include well exams, sports physicals, illness care and medicine for acute illness.
The mobile clinic brought on two new employees. Certified pediatric nurse practitioner Amy Negovan will run the unit. Christina Montero is its program coordinator. David Bell is the driver "until we can get a volunteer from the hospital," he said.
Wells Fargo contributed a $25,000 gift toward the program's operation.
"A lot of people have contributed to support the mobile clinic. It's just wonderful; we're thrilled with that. We have so many generous people in our communities. It's heartwarming to see how much people care," Robbie Nicol, YRMC Director of Community Outreach and Philanthropy, said.
Any eligible student, and younger siblings, can access any clinic. But guidelines for eligibility and insurance requirements are somewhat complicated, so parents should call for that information. Parents also must call for an appointment for their child, as no walk-ins are accepted at any location, whether it be an outpatient or mobile clinic. A parent must be in attendance at the appointment.
Sandeen noted that even if a child doesn't qualify for the free service, YRMC can help them "land where they need to land, where they do qualify," through the hospital's referral networks.
For more information or to schedule for any clinic, call 928-771-5123.