Port Angeles School Board President Josh Jones listens to public comment about the proposed health center at Port Angeles High School during the board’s meeting Thursday. The school board approved pursuing a health center in a 4-to-1 vote. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Port Angeles School Board approves health center

PORT ANGELES — The proposed health center at Port Angeles High School has earned the approval of the Port Angeles School District board of directors.

In a 4-to-1 vote, with Board Member Susan Shotthafer opposed, the School Board approved a resolution supporting the health center during its Thursday night meeting.

The next step is for the board to vote on a memorandum of understanding that would allow North Olympic Healthcare Network to begin working with students at PAHS.

The vote is expected during the board’s 7 p.m. June 22 at the North Olympic Peninsula Skills Center, 905 W. ninth St., Port Angeles.

The effort has been led by the Port Angeles Citizen Action Network.

During the standing-room-only meeting, 10 people spoke against the health center, with many concerns surrounding the moral issues surrounding contraceptives and abortion referrals.

One woman told board members their support for the health center was the same as supporting the “modern Holocaust” of abortion and equated supporters to Nazis and American slave owners.

Many expressed concern that the health center could drive a wedge between parents and their children and that students could go to the health center without the knowledge of their parents.

Parents must give permission for students to use the health center. They will provided forms at the beginning of the school year that they can sign or decline.

Under state law, minors can see doctors for contraceptives and abortion referrals without consent from their parents.

The school-based health center would not provide abortions.

During the more than hour-long public comment period, 16 people spoke in favor of the effort, many saying it would help under-served students whose parents either can’t or won’t get them the health care they need.

Shotthafer said her concern was the health of students and that contraceptives are physically dangerous for young girls.

“How ironic it is to consider a health center that would consider prescribing carcinogenic contraceptives,” she said. “I don’t know how often they will be prescribed, but I know they will have the authority.”

Vice President Sarah Methner said she “absolutely supports” the health center and called the idea of not approving the health center “absolutely ludicrous.”

“We are hearing a lot about how birth control causes deaths,” she said. “Childbirth causes more deaths than birth control. That’s just facts.”

President Dr. Josh Jones addressed a concern that because he was a doctor, he had a conflict of interest on the issue.

“It take the suggestion of conflict of interest seriously,” he said. “I do not stand to benefit in any direct or indirect way.”

Jones is the Chief Physician Officer for Olympic Medical Physicians, which is not involved in the effort.

Jones did not comment on the health center, but voted in favor of it.

Board Member Sandy Long said she supports the health center idea, but wants to look closely at the memorandum of understanding before she approves it.

For her to approve it, Long said the health center needs to be considered a one-year pilot program that would be evaluated before deciding to continue.

She also wants to know who would provide mental health services before approving the health center.

Board Member Cindy Kelly said she agrees with Long on the pilot program.

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Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].

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