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Debate over school health clinic heats up

POULSBO — For the second meeting in a row, the North Kitsap School Board heard comments about a school-based health clinic that, if approved, would be located at Spectrum Community School.

While the clinic would be located at Spectrum, it would be funded for and run under the auspices of the Kitsap Health District, said Dr. Scott Lindquist, who approached the district with the proposal months ago.

Lindquist is a pediatrician and the director of the Kitsap County Health District.

The clinic would be open a few days a week and would provide health services for Spectrum students only. Services would include everything from basic nutrition and mental-health information to reproductive health information — and it’s mainly the latter that has become a point of contention.

Several North Kitsap residents spoke out against the clinic at the Dec. 12 meeting and as the board continues to mull the issue, they had plenty of opinions to hear during the Jan. 9 meeting.

Several Spectrum staff members were also at the session — which was significantly more crowded than usual — to speak in support of the concept.

They included Principal Chris Wendelyn, who has been working with Lindquist on building the idea of a clinic for several months; Maggie Smith, the school’s nurse, who said that inexpensive, easy-to-access health services are a dire need in the school; and Mike Phimister, the school’s counselor.

Phimister said he was struck by the north end’s lack of health care options when he arrived at the school five years ago and urged the district to accept the proposal — no matter what those opposed to it had to say.

“Children are not better served when basic health care is denied to them, whatever the reason,” he said.

Several North Kitsap residents also spoke out in opposition to the proposal.

Jim Craswell said that some parents would be opposed to providing reproductive health services, which would include access to birth control.

“Is now the best time to disenfranchise or split off a number of parents, when the school district needs all the help it can get?” Craswell asked.

Craswell added a point that had been brought up in a previous meeting: would the clinic’s confidentiality between doctor and patient result in a decrease of communication between parents and children — especially with communication being one of the district’s core values?

“If you allow the health district to come in and trump your core values,” Craswell said, “Then you’re saying your core value isn’t a value, but a slogan.”

Several other community members spoke out against the clinic as well.

“The board is legislating morality for the North Kitsap community,” said Poulsbo’s Cris Shardleman.

After the community members spoke, Lindquist stood behind the lectern to take questions from the board.

They had plenty.

Lindquist said that the controversy over reproductive health was overshadowing the primary purpose of the clinic.

“This isn’t a sex clinic,” he said. “It’s a health clinic that students were polled and said they wanted.”

The board asked what the district’s financial responsibility was to the clinic.

Besides proving the room (which is located in the administrative building at Spectrum and used for storage), the district would have none, Lindquist said. Through grants and state funding, the health district would pay the administrative costs and the salaries involved to make the clinic open a few days (probably three) a week, he explained

Another question: if a student was turned away because their parents had not signed the necessary permission form, could the student get the same services at a private health clinic elsewhere in Kitsap County?

They could, Lindquist said. Although, he added, many students couldn’t take such a step because they couldn’t afford it, or they could only afford it through their parents’ insurance coverage.

Dick Endresen asked Lindquist, if he were working at the clinic, would refer a pregnant student to get an abortion.

“No,” Lindquist responded. “I’m going to tell them to talk to their parents.”

As the meeting wound down, board member Brad Camp asked what the timeline for the health clinic was.

“If you said today to go forward and do it, it would take at least two months to set up,” Lindquist said.

Camp smiled.

“We’re not ready to make that decision today,” he said.

The board will make a decision at its Jan. 23 meeting.

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