September 5, 2008

More Mobile Clinics Serving Contra Costa Students

By Kimberly S Wetzel; Rowena Coetsee

Students who need a sports physical or tetanus shot will find those health services and more for free at several Mount Diablo and West Contra Costa schools this year.

Officials from Contra Costa Health Services' Public Health department have increased the number of mobile clinics offering health services to some of the county's neediest students. The program, which started with a permanent health facility at Richmond High and later a mobile unit at Richmond's Kennedy High, will continue to operate at those schools but also has begun serving students at Mount Diablo and Ygnacio Valley high schools in Concord.

Students at Grant and Nystrom elementaries and DeJean Middle in Richmond, as well as Dover and Downer elementaries and Helms Middle in San Pablo, also will see the health vans rolling into their school parking lots in the next couple weeks, said Sue Crosby, director of county public health clinic services.

In all, there will be four health vans to help students, and Pittsburg Unified in East County also has begun offering services.

"The kids are really thankful," said Richmond pediatric nurse practitioner Leigh Pierson-Brown, who has worked at the clinics at Richmond and Kennedy highs. "We have really nice relationships with the kids."

Health Services, which for more than 15 years has operated a permanent clinic at Richmond High, expanded its outreach after surveying the county's school districts to gauge need.

They found that the Mount Diablo, West Contra Costa and Pittsburg districts had the greatest number of families eligible to receive free and reduced-price lunches, which also means they qualify for Medi-Cal.

The county bought three vans that each have two exam rooms and refrigerators for storing blood and urine samples.

There's also space for its crew to weigh youngsters, take their blood pressure, check for anemia as well as kidney, bladder and intestinal infections, and administer a battery of vaccinations for everything from measles, mumps and chicken pox to Hepatitis A and B, whooping cough and tetanus.

Also aboard is a health educator who can counsel students on topics such as nutrition, sexually transmitted diseases and avoiding unintended pregnancies.

A community health worker can help families apply for Medi-Cal, serve as a translator and assist the family nurse practitioner, who gives annual physicals and prescribes medications.

In addition, a registered nurse can give injections as well as test youngsters' vision and hearing.

The services are available to students who either lack health insurance or are covered by Medi-Cal, Crosby said.

She has no doubts the need is real, she said.

"There are a lot of kids out there who don't get wellness exams," Crosby said.

Reach Kimberly S. Wetzel at 510-262-2798 or [email protected] Reach Rowena Coetsee at [email protected] or locations, hours

Mount Diablo school district-- Mount Diablo High School: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays-- Ygnacio Valley High School: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays

West Contra Costa school district-- DeJean Middle School: Monday afternoons, Wednesday mornings beginning next week-- Grant, Nystrom, Dover and Downer elementaries: Time to be determined-- Helms Middle School: Tuesday afternoons, Thursday mornings beginning next week-- Kennedy High School: Tuesday and Friday mornings-- Richmond High School: Everyday during school hours. Clinic is part of campus.

Originally published by Kimberly S. Wetzel and Rowena Coetsee, Contra Costa Times.

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