By MIKE WILLIAMS
Plans to establish a school-based health clinic at Pulaski County High School are a done deal, according to school board chairman Dr. Paige Cash.
That news did not sit well with one parent at Tuesday’s school board meeting, who said others in the community also are not pleased with plans for a school-based health clinic.
The idea of establishing a clinic at PCHS first surfaced in March when the school board heard a presentation from officials of the Community Health Center of the New River Valley, which had previously spearheaded the establishment of a clinic at Giles High School and would operate the one planned at PCHS.
Michelle Brauns, Chief Executive Officer for the Community Health Center, headquartered in Christiansburg, said in March all four of its clinics – including the one at Giles High – provide family medical care, dental care and behavioral health services.
The PCHS clinic would provide the same, and – like Giles High – treat students and staff.
Prescription drugs are prescribed to a pharmacy and would not be given to patients at the PCHS clinic. However, drugs such as Tylenol and Ibuprofen will be available.
Following another presentation Tuesday on the clinic at PCHS by Community Health Center officials, Cash asked, “You did say that if a student shows up at the clinic and does not have the parental consent paperwork on file, you will contact the parent.”
The health center official responded, “Absolutely!”
“You will not treat a student who does not have parental consent,” Cash asked.
“Right,” responded the health center official.
“I think that’s been a hang-up among some members of the community, is that they are afraid that we’re going to be handing out puberty blockers and birth control pills to students – anybody who wants one at this clinic. But if they come to the door and they don’t have this (parental consent) paperwork on file, you won’t see them.”
“Right,” the health center official responded.
However, the medical director of the clinic spoke up and noted there are four instances allowed by state law in which a minor shall be deemed an adult and receive care without parental consent.
According to the Code of Virginia, “a minor shall be deemed an adult for the purpose of consenting to:
1-Medical or health services needed to determine the presence of or to treat venereal disease or any infectious or contagious disease that the State Board of Health requires to be reported;
2-Medical or health services required in case of birth control, pregnancy or family planning except for the purposes of sexual sterilization;
3-Medical or health services needed in the case of outpatient care, treatment or rehabilitation for substance abuse as defined in Code section 37.2-100; or
4-Medical or health services needed in the case of outpatient care, treatment or rehabilitation for mental illness or emotional disturbance.
He said in these four instances, state law requires that minors can be treated without parental consent, and they also determine who gets information after treatment.
“These come from the Commonwealth and are not negotiable,” he stated.
Cash continued, “So at this particular clinic (PCHS), if a parent has not filed the papers giving consent, then that takes the student getting any information out of the equation … at this clinic, but they can go to another clinic under Virginia law and get that information.”
The health director responded, “There are different tiers of control – what the state says, and the parameters established from the school system.”
“If you deny them (minor students) they will get it somewhere else – virtually any other pediatric clinic or the health department.”
Board member Penny Golden added, “That was what we were told in March, that we can say no contraceptives – none of that, and direct them to where they can get that.”
The health director responded, “That’s right.”
“You said that’s never happened in Giles,” Cash said, and he responded, “No, it hasn’t.”
Community Health Center officials plan to hold an open house at the PCHS clinic, being constructed now in the CTE building on campus, for the school board and parents of students.
Cash followed up with another question, whether taxpayers in Pulaski County will pay for the clinic.
Brauns responded, “Short answer – no.”
Draper resident Billy Williams addressed the board on the clinic plans.
“I wish this meeting had happened in April [following the first mention of the clinic in March] and not so close to school starting. It almost sounds like – with the construction – that this is almost a done deal,” Williams said.
He noted he had spoke with board member Timmy Hurst and relayed to him some of the issues parents have concerns with. Williams, too, then addressed the State Code section that allows for minor children to be treated without parental consent in four instancea.
“Pulaski County is in the business of education, we’re not in the business of diagnosing, treating or prescribing medicines. Even a letter of understanding between Pulaski County and Community Health by this board will not stop them from doing it. They can say they will, but they’re not going to break the law of Virginia in order to satisfy this,” Williams stated.
“As far as how the facility has come along, is it a done deal,” Williams asked.
“Yes,” responded Cash.
“If a parent does not want their child to be seen at the clinic, all they have to do is not fill out the paperwork,” Cash said.
“Not according to the law,” Williams stated.
“No, they don’t fill out the paperwork. This is different from that law. They (students) can go to another clinic without parental consent and get those services. But at our clinic there is an extensive amount of paperwork, and they (students) cannot be seen without that paperwork being filled out,” Cash said.
The Health Center’s medical director agreed.
In a discussion between Williams and the medical director, Williams said discussions about birth control should be held between the parent and child.
“This right here (State Code provisions) are circumventing the parent, which has happened so much in the last year,” Williams stated. “And that’s what the parents’ concern are, it has nothing to do with health care. Everything [the health center officials] have mentioned they will do is already available for free through the different clinics in the community.”
“If a parent is afraid their child is going to get birth control at this clinic, do not fill out the paperwork,” Cash stated.
“We just covered the paperwork doesn’t matter,” Williams replied.
“No, it matters,” Cash responded. “This is a health clinic and paperwork matters.”
“All it’s going to take is one student being told ‘no,’ [they can’t get birth control at the clinic],” added board member Becki Cox.
Cash told Williams the place where students will get the most information on birth control is their phone or their friends.
“They’re not going to get it from this clinic,” Cash told Williams.
“Put your concerns to rest. In a year when we have treated all these other students for dental care and health care and nobody has gotten birth control, I’ll be happy to have you back,” Cash said.
“Parents are not very happy about this,” Williams said.
“Then I hope they will contact us, and they will come to our meetings because we want to hear from them,” Cash replied.
According to School Superintendent Dr. Kevin Siers, hopes are for construction of the clinic to be completed by early October.