There will be fewer students checking out of school at Plaquemine High School now that the school has a free health clinic.

Operated by the non-profit, Kenner-based Access Health Louisiana, the center allows students with or without healthcare insurance to be treated by two healthcare professionals at no cost.

“We operate as an FQHC, which is a federally qualified health center and that means that we see people regardless of their ability to pay,” said Chenier Reynolds, an operations manager with the organization.

The organization has free-standing clinics in parishes all over southeast Louisiana, including Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Charles, St. Tammany and others.

“We also have school-based clinics as well,” Reynolds said. “Most of our school-based clinics have been I Orleans and Jefferson parishes so this our first in Iberville Parish.”

“We heard there was a great need for students to get care while they’re in school,” she continued. “It’s beneficial for two reasons—the kids stay in school more and it helps parents because they don’t have to leave work to come pick up a sick child, unless their child has the flu or something else serious.”

Students can go to the health clinic for something as simple as an aspirin for a headache or for vaccinations like for pneumococcal pneumonia or the HPV vaccination that has been widely publicized through advertising lately.

The only thing parents have to do to make their child eligible to use the clinic is to sign a consent enrollment form, Reynolds said. “Many parents have not yet turned in the form,” she continued. “We’ve seen about 70 students so far but the number would be higher if all of the students’ parents would sign the form and send it to school with their child.”

“The biggest concern is getting the consent forms signed because once we get all of those signed, we’ll be able to see as many students as needed,” said Kirstain Washington, a medical assistant and a Plaquemine High Class of 2004 alumnus.

“I wish we could get all of the forms returned that we’ve sent out because if we don’t have a consent form from the parents, when they get sick here at school, they come in here but there’s nothing we can do because we don’t have the parents’ permission,” she continued.

Washington is a full-time employee of the clinic as is Brittney Sanders, a nurse practitioner and an advanced practice registered nurse.

“We haven’t seen any students with any real serious health issues yet,” she said. “The worst so far has been an ear infection.”

“One of the reasons we haven’t seen as many students as we should is because the kids don’t know we’re here,” Sanders said. “And there’s still a bit of confusion between us and a school nurse.”