FAIRMOUNT – Leading people on a tour of the three mostly empty examination rooms last week at the Aspire Indiana Health Madison-Grant Clinic, Syd Ehmke couldn’t help but comment on the challenges he faced. is faced with equipment and supplies.
“Medical equipment has also been a supply chain issue,” said the vice president of the federally licensed health center.
Despite this, as schools were closed for fall break last week, residents of Summitville and Fairmount became the beneficiaries of an oasis in their healthcare desert with the opening of the clinic in the old administrative building of the school district.
The clinic, with its laboratory and three patient examination rooms, is intended for the public as well as students seeking screenings, diagnoses and treatments, such as strep, flu and COVID-19 tests, smears and blood tests. The most northeast of Aspire’s 12 centers, it is one of two medical facilities within a 17 mile radius
“Really, we want to make sure we can meet the acute and urgent care needs,” Ehmke said. “Because Michelle (McDowell) is a family nurse practitioner, we can see from the cradle to the grave. “
The clinic is part of a trend in public school districts as they attempt to remove barriers that prevent students from learning. Nearby Elwood Community Schools, for example, operate a district clinic.
The Madison-Grant clinic does not replace the school nurse, Ehmke stressed, but the pre-signed authorization cards save valuable time caring for students and avoid stress for parents who might. otherwise having to leave work to rush to another health care provider. .
As in many rural communities, obtaining health care in Summitville and Fairmount posed particular challenges, especially when it came to work hours, transportation, and insurance. The clinic accepts Medicare and Medicaid as well as private insurance, and for those who are uninsured, it offers sliding scale rates.
Last week, the Aspire Indiana Health Madison-Grant Clinic also became a federally qualified National Health Service Corps site. This means that those who work there may be eligible for tuition assistance and have their student loans canceled.
According to Georgetown University, rural residents tend to be in poorer health and spend more on personal expenses than their urban counterparts.
That’s part of why Madison-Grant Superintendent Scott Deetz approached Aspire officials with the idea at a United Way event in 2018. Each of the three organizations shares the common mission and vision of Aspire. enter the community, he said.
“Breaking down these barriers and really having them in our backyard opens up access to regular preventive health care,” he said. “Healthier students are more ready to learn. “
Deetz said he started thinking about the idea when the district moved its administration from the stand-alone building to the nearby high school.
“I wanted to use the school’s resources to meet this need. “
Although he is familiar with the mental health and behavioral services offered by Aspire, who contracted for them with the district, it was during the United Way event that Deetz learned that they also had the ability to provide primary health care.
“We quickly realized that this was a great potential relationship for both sides,” he said. “It was really great to come full circle in this expansion and continue to serve the people of Madison and Grant counties in this way.”
McDowell, a native of Marion, who was previously a nurse for staff at Warsaw Community Schools, said the proximity to the clinic would also help teachers.
“Sometimes teachers have the same hours as many doctors’ offices. Hope this helps with that.
The current setup allows for an appointment every 30 minutes, McDowell said.
“We will be here whether the schools are open or not,” she said. “Obviously, school is a priority for us, but so is the community. “
Jerry Landers, vice president of strategy and development for Aspire, said that although the clinic is remote from the cities it is supposed to serve, he expects transportation issues to be minimal.
“The advantage of having it near a school is that it’s a hub. People come here naturally, ”he said. “When you look at this very rural area, that was the most natural place to place it.”
The next step, Landers said, will be telehealth services, also a challenge in rural areas where internet connectivity is sometimes limited.
“But it’s definitely a step in the right direction.”
To follow Rebecca R. Bibbs on Twitter at @RebeccaB_THB, or call 765-640-4883.