Health clinic to open near Ingram-Pye Elementary School

jmink@macon.comJuly 11, 2014 

A school in one of Bibb County’s poorest neighborhoods is slated to get a community health clinic, which will serve students and residents in the area.

The school-based health center, which will offer free medical services and counseling, will be in a building near Ingram-Pye Elementary School. It’s part of a plan to help Ingram-Pye become a full-service community school, offering vital resources to surrounding neighborhoods.

The unusual project, which recently received approval from the Bibb school board, is part of a plan to rehabilitate the area, specifically the Unionville and Tindall Heights neighborhoods. But the opening of the clinic hinges on funding.

The clinic is a collaboration between several community organizations, including First Choice Primary Care, a nonprofit community health center in Macon. First Choice received a grant to fund the new clinic. Now, United Way of Central Georgia is seeking funds to staff the clinic, said George McCanless, United Way’s president and CEO.

United Way has applied for a five-year, $2.5 million federal grant, but it’s up against some stiff competition. Only 10 grants will be handed out, and five of them are designated for specific areas, which do not include the local region, United Way officials said.

The extensive plan to help that area of Macon, dubbed the Promise Neighborhood initiative, was dealt a blow when federal Promise Neighborhood funding was sliced as part of government budget cuts.

Still, the organization is hopeful it can land the grant for the health clinic. If everything falls into place, the plan is to open the clinic as early as January, said Steve Smith, interim superintendent of Bibb schools.

And, if the grant is not obtained, the health clinic will move forward anyway. United Way will continue to apply for grants and garner funding so the clinic can open, McCanless said.

“This (grant) would be a huge shot of B12” for the program, he said.

After all, such services are vital for the Ingram-Pye neighborhood, officials say.

At that school, “we’re dealing with a problem of attendance,” Smith said. “Whatever we can do to keep children healthy and keep them in school will give them a better academic foundation.”

Studies have shown that poor health and low attendance contribute to low student achievement. According to a Telegraph analysis of recent test data, out of all schools in Bibb County, Ingram-Pye trailed statewide test scores the most. The school was an average 32 points behind statewide scores on the most recent Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests.

Nearly half the households in the area around the Anthony Road school are below the poverty level, and more than half the adults do not have a high school diploma, according to an AdvancEd report.

The clinic would offer free medical services, from check-ups to treatment, to students, their families and other members of the community. The idea also includes bringing behavioral counselors into the clinic.

It’s part of a three-pronged plan for the school and the area. It involves placing mentors inside the school, setting up the clinic and providing early education intervention.

For now, the first goal has been met, as representatives from Communities In Schools of Central Georgia and tutors from Mercer University work with at-risk students. Officials also hope to soon start a program that would send mentors into the homes of at-risk toddlers and young children. Mentors would counsel the parents, teaching them how to educate their children before they begin kindergarten.

It’s an attempt to offer early education to children who often do not receive it. A study shows that about 1,000 children younger than 5 in that part of Macon do not receive any prekindergarten education. Therefore, many of them enter school at a disadvantage, said Ebony Harris, implementation director for Community Impact with United Way.

“It’s helping them ... be better prepared as they enter school,” she said.

The plan also entails engaging neighbors with their community and with one another -- specifically through services like the health clinic, which will be a central place for residents.

“All the planning that has been done over the past couple of years suggests this is the right model for the community,” said Tammie Collins, executive vice president of Community Impact with United Way. “All these things support one another.”

To contact writer Jenna Mink, call 744-4331.

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