Clinic keeping students, teachers in school

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Brittany Coburn and Daniel Masar are helping keep Columbia Falls students and staff healthy at the school-based clinic this year. (Jeremy Weber photo)

It may be hard to find a doctor who makes house calls these days, but some North Valley Profession Center physicians are doing the next best thing, taking care of students and faculty at Columbia Falls High School as part of the North Valley School-Based Clinic.

Since 2016, the School-Based Clinic has been providing a number of services for Columbia Falls High School students as well as all staff and faculty of School District 6, including primary care visits, sports physicals, annual physicals for adults, chronic care (asthma, diabetes), acute care (illness, injury), mental health visits and more.

According to School-Based Clinic Manager Brittany Coburn, who provides care at the clinic on Tuesdays, the clinic is the perfect way to make sure students get the care they need without having to miss school.

“One nice thing about the clinic is that we are there for parents who have a kid who needs a check up, but the parent can’t get off from work. This way, parents and kids don’t have to give up half a day to be able to go to the doctor,” she said. “The kid can just be pulled out of class for a visit and return as soon as they are done. It really is a convenient option. We help keep kids in the school. If you leave for an afternoon appointment, it’s easy to not come back to school that day. Now, those kids can get treated and be right back in class.”

Care is available from 12:30 to 4 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays throughout the school year, beginning Sept. 10 with same-day appointments almost always available.

According to clinic manager Sid Neilson, the clinic is focused on making sure students, faculty and staff can get the best care possible in a way most convenient to their needs. Neilson says the clinic tries to make appointments during student’s study hall periods or during teacher’s prep periods to help make sure patients are out of the classroom when it is convenient for them.

“We bill all insurances there and we also work with kids who don’t have insurance as well. It’s not a big money maker for us. We do it to make sure the kids are able to stay in good health and that their needs are served,” he said.

The clinic even offers limited lab services, with the ability to test for ailments like flu and strep throat.

The clinic also provides mental health services, which Coburn says has become a big part of how the clinic can help students.

“I was thinking it would be more physical ailments when I started, but I would say that more than 50 percent of the work I do at the school-based clinic is mental health related. It’s there and we need to recognize it and realize it is not abnormal,” Coburn said. “I think that reaching out and having a counselor there for the kids is changing the perception of mental health. Needing help is not necessarily looked at as a bad thing anymore and I think that is phenomenal.”

With the clinic now entering its fourth year of operation, Coburn says she and fellow provider Daniel Masar are looking forward to another year at the school.

“We’ve learned a lot and made a lot of changes to improve what we can do for these kids and teachers over the past four years,” she said. “I’m just glad we are able to help.”

Parents wishing to enroll their students in the program can speak with School Nurse Cathy Dragonfly at 406-892-6510.

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