Heartland school district aims for better student healthcare

As early as this coming winter, Kirksville could have its own school-based health facility. (KTVO)

Sneezes, coughs and cuts and scrapes, those are just a few things school nurses treat on a daily basis.

Now, one Heartland school district has a plan to take student care one step further.

As early as this coming winter, Kirksville could have its own school-based health facility.

Superintendent Dr. Damon Kizzire recently shared the idea with school board members.

He says the facility would allow students to seek medical attention on site, instead of leaving school to visit a doctor elsewhere in town.

"What I really hope this can expand into is not only the medical side of things, but also the social side of things and mental wellness."

Should the project move forward, the district would partner with Northeast Missouri Health Council. Kizzire says Northeast Missouri Health Council CEO Andy Grimm proposed the possibility of establishing the clinic in October.

"[He said] we have this opportunity to try and provide grants and things like that. You know, the school district needs to provide a site for us to do this. So, we've really been looking at what does this mean. It almost sounds a little too good to be true, so with that, I am still just a little bit skeptical."

Right now, many parents working during the day may worry they'll be unable to pick up their child if they come down with something at school, not to mention get them to a doctor's office.

Wendy Ward, a nurse at Ray Miller Elementary, says even tracking down parents can be difficult at times.

"Sometimes I've had to have them stay in here and then they have to ride the bus home if nobody can come pick them up. Sometimes, I've had to send a resource officer out to their home to see if anybody was home."

Because of that, district officials have been doing their research on the one-stop-shop option.

"I've talked to some of my friends down in southwest Missouri at Cassville and also Hollister who already have a center in place, and they have nothing but good things to say about these kinds of partnerships between the regional health centers and school districts," said Kizzire. "I also had an opportunity to go to Hannibal the other day and they have just started theirs."

Kizzire says the visit to Hannibal School District allowed him to see first-hand how an on-site clinic would work.

"I got to go in and meet the lady at the front desk, the lady that is their nurse practitioner and then also their social worker and it was really neat because as we were talking, a student came in who was sick and so I got to see... I didn't get to see what happened, but I saw the process of that kid going in."

Should the district decide to partner with Northeast Missouri Health Council and move forward with this project, services such as primary care, dental and mental health and counseling would be provided to not only students, but staff and faculty as well.

As always, Kizzire and Ward stress the importance of washing hands and covering your mouth if you cough. They say following those simple tips will help keep the school population healthier.

Another local district, Ottumwa, implemented a teen health center in recent years. Many in that district say the clinic has proved successful.

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