Education

Medical clinic at Macon elementary school will be shot in the arm for neighborhood

The Ingram-Pye Health Center, at the elementary school on Anthony Road, is scheduled to open this week.
The Ingram-Pye Health Center, at the elementary school on Anthony Road, is scheduled to open this week. wmarshall@macon.com

A student’s medical issues can have an impact far beyond the child’s health, so officials hope a new school clinic can make a big difference in the Unionville neighborhood.

The Ingram-Pye Health Center, run by First Choice Primary Care on the grounds of Ingram-Pye Elementary School, is scheduled to open this week.

“Everyone seems to be very excited about it,” First Choice CEO Katherine McLeod said.

Construction is nearly complete, and keys could be in hand by Monday. Once it opens, there will be a nurse practitioner on site to diagnose and treat the usual student ills such as infections, and prescriptions will also be available.

Eventually, the Anthony Road clinic will also provide resources for behavioral health, such as counseling.

It’s part of a plan to help Ingram-Pye become a full-service community school, offering vital resources to the community.

Over the years, the school has had student attendance and achievement shortfalls. Poor health and low attendance contribute to low student achievement, so keeping children healthy and in school will give them a better shot at academic success, the thinking goes.

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

Bringing medical care to neighborhoods such as the one surrounding Ingram-Pye is important because ready transportation isn’t always available for families there, McLeod said.

“Getting children or adults to a doctor can be a challenge if you don’t have reliable transportation,” she said.

Also, traditional doctor visits can have a negative effect on “educational outcomes,” since a trip to the doctor might cost the student more classroom time than just the time he or she is at the office. That’s where on-site medical services, including well-child visits, could help boost student success.

“For working parents, it’s difficult to get off work, get your child from school, get to a doctor and get back to school,” McLeod said.

Another facet of the clinic -- the first of its kind in Bibb County -- is the ability to treat students with parents who might not be able to get off work quickly -- or at all. With prior approval paperwork, those students won’t have to wait for a parent to pick them up, as long as the illness isn’t serious enough to require a trip home or to the hospital.

“We can go pick them up from the office and bring them over here and treat them,” said Laura Fussell, a registered nurse who was helping set up the clinic on Friday.

That prospect “should be a big help,” said Willie Mullens, who has four children at Ingram-Pye.

“They might can’t reach the parents or something,” he said. “On-site facilities are good, man.”

The clinic is part of the Promise Neighborhood initiative, an extensive plan to help bolster the area. It was dealt a blow when federal Promise Neighborhood funding was sliced as part of government budget cuts. Now, the initiative is under the direction of the United Way of Central Georgia. As such, United Way wrote letters of support for grants for the plan, said Judy Nelson, the agency’s vice president of marketing.

“I think it’s wonderful to see everything coming together,” Nelson said.

Initially, the clinic will just be open to students at Ingram-Pye. Eventually, though, parents and others will get the benefit of a new medical facility in their neighborhood.

“Once we get everything up and running serving children in the school, we’ll be open after school to people in the neighborhood,” McLeod said, noting that school hours would always be dedicated to students.

Of course, such an innovative concept couldn’t happen without cooperation from the school system. McLeod said that new school Superintendent Curtis Jones and others have supported the idea wholeheartedly.

That was a key to bringing it to fruition.

“Because this is a little bit different, and we couldn’t have done it without their support,” McLeod said.

The clinic will file with health insurance companies for those who have insurance, and fees will be assessed on a sliding scale based on income and family size in cooperation with grant rules.

To contact writer Jeremy Timmerman, call 744-4331 or find him on Twitter @MTJTimm.

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