News From Terre Haute, Indiana

July 7, 2012

Health-center-on-wheels just what the doctor ordered

Mobile unit care serving Vermillion, Parke children

Sue Loughlin
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — For families who live in rural areas, high gas prices, economic hardships or work schedules might make it difficult to get their sick children to a doctor in a timely manner.  But starting this school year, students in Vermillion and Parke counties will be able to go to school to receive primary health care services as the result of a new mobile health clinic.

On Friday, officials — including U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar — dedicated the Mobile School-Based Health Center, part of the Vermillion-Parke Community Health Center.

Lugar initially proposed the idea of a mobile health clinic and also helped secure the funding, a $350,552 federal grant.

“This is a passionate cause for me,” Lugar said. “I’m so excited about what we’re dedicating today and all that it will mean to the children of these wonderful counties.”

The mobile health center will travel to all 14 schools in the five school corporations of Parke and Vermillion counties. One goal is help children stay in school by identifying and addressing health problems that may affect learning.

“It will help children stay in school and help children learn better,” said Caroline Carney, chief medical officer for MDwise, which also provided funding for the mobile health center.

The mobile unit will provide primary health care services that include treatment for acute problems such as cold, flu, ear aches or rash. It also will provide immunizations, school physicals and well-child visits.

It is already being used for sports physicals, said Tom Rohr, Turkey Run schools superintendent and vice president of the Vermillion-Parke Community Health Center board. “We’re already seeing a lot of use and we anticipate a lot more use in the coming months,” he said.

In small, rural districts, some families may have a difficult time getting their sick children the health services they need to return to school, he said. That can lead to extended absences.

The mobile health center will enable those children to go to school to meet their primary health care needs, Rohr said. School officials are appreciative of the new service, he said.

Five school districts are involved: North and South Vermillion, Turkey Run, Rockville and Southwest Parke.

More than 5,000 students attending those districts will potentially benefit, Lugar said. Children will be able to receive immediate treatment for their acute health care problems.

The mobile unit will be staffed by a family nurse practitioner, Jennifer Inman, and a licensed practical nurse, Amy Clarkson.

The service is open to all students, regardless of ability to pay, according to Elizabeth Burrows, the health center’s chief executive officer. Parental consent is required.

The mobile school clinic will accept Medicaid, Medicare and private insurance. If a student does not have any health care coverage, the student may be eligible for a sliding-scale fee based on family size and income.

In the future, officials hope to offer behavioral health and dental services through the mobile school clinic, Burrows said.

The project received a federal school-based capital grant in August 2011 as part of the Affordable Care Act. Other sponsors included Union Hospital Clinton, Union Hospital Health Group, MDWise and Hoosier Alliance.

The Richard G. Lugar Center for Rural Health also was a partner in the project.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at (812) 231-4235 or sue.loughlin@