PORT ANGELES — North Olympic Healthcare Network is preparing to open its new health center at Port Angeles High School on Tuesday, a move officials say will improve grades and access to health care.
“It’s very exciting to know that there is going to be access for students up there,” said Karen Paulsen, NOHN’s chief operating officer. “It took a long time to get it all together, but it’s a relief to have it operational now and ready to go.”
The on-campus center would allow students, many of whom have no access to health care, to see a health care provider at school. Similar centers are already in operation in Port Townsend and Chimacum.
Paulsen said the health center will be open every other Tuesday from 8 a.m. to noon. Students will be seen by a physician assistant.
If it turns out there is more of a need, NOHN plans to expand its hours at the high school.
“I’m hoping to expand sooner than later,” Paulsen said, adding she would like to see it open at least once a week.
Students getting care must register with NOHN, which can be done through the school nurse or NOHN. Registrations and permission packets need to be turned into the school nurse ahead of an appointment.
There are separate registration packets for students over and under 18 years of age.
Registration instructions and new patient applications are available on the Port Angeles School District website at www.portangelesschools.org. Also available on the website is a list of frequently asked questions with answers provided (FAQ).
Appointments can be scheduled through the school nurse or by calling NOHN’s office.
The idea for a school-based health center earned approval from the Port Angeles School District board of directors in June, 2017. Susan Shotthafer, who stepped down from the board in December, was the only board member to vote against the measure.
“We’re really proud that we can meet the community’s need,” said Chief Medical Officer Kate Weller. “The community has been waiting this for a long time and there have been a lot of obstacles.”
The health center is in the office area at Port Angeles High School, Paulsen said. When students stop by the office, other students won’t know if they have a health appointment, are seeing the principal, or are in the office for another reason, she said.
“Students can come in through the office door, so nobody knows what they are going in for,” Paulsen said, adding that it provides privacy. “We really felt strongly about that.”
It was an effort that began in earnest in early 2017 when eighth-grade teacher and Port Angeles Citizen Action Network founder Angie Gooding spearheaded the idea, though others had tried in the past to get a health center into the high school.
With a $7,000 donation for Port Angeles Noon Rotary, NOHN was able to purchase the medical supplies needed for the exam room.
Weller said the clinic will help students miss less class time when they see a doctor and it will eliminate transportation barriers.
She said it’s difficult for some parents to get time off from work to take their kids to see a doctor.
For the majority of care they would receive at the health clinic, students who are under 18-year-old will need parent permission before scheduling an appointment.
Paulsen said parents are welcome to attend their child’s appointment if they want.
“We’re going to communicate with parents,” she said. “That is one of the things we believe in is the family unit.”
For more information, call NOHN at 360-452-7891 or visit portangelesschools.org.
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].