New clinic offers MUHS teens more options


PORTER PEDIATRIC PRIMARY Care staffers Dr. Paco Corbalan and Nurse Practitioner Monica Benjamin, shown with her daughter Winter, are spearheading a new in-school clinic that will serve Middlebury Union High School students beginning Dec. 5. The clinic will be open for around four hours each Thursday and will be based in the Hannaford Career Center. Independent photo/John Flowers
I think adolescents are a particularly vulnerable population, and so anything we can do to increase their access to support and things they need I think is in their best interest and a really valuable thing. — Dr. Paco Corbalan

MIDDLEBURY — Porter Pediatric Primary Care and Middlebury Union High School have teamed up to launch a new health center that will serve students in a school setting.

The new clinic — which will be open for around four hours on Thursdays, beginning Dec. 5 — will dispense care that currently can’t be offered by the school nurse and would thus require a student to leave campus for treatment at Porter or through their family physician.

It will be located in the Patricia A. Hannaford Career Center, which is attached by a hallway to the MUHS building off Charles Avenue.

The clinic will provide such care as:

• Assessment of and treatment for acute illnesses including ear infections, strep throat, influenza, rashes, etc.

• Lab testing for such conditions as strep throat, mononucleosis, flu, urinalysis, pregnancy, and sexually transmitted diseases.

• Care coordination for chronic conditions such as asthma and diabetes.

• Management of recurring health concerns such as headaches and stomachaches.

• Treatment of a variety of sports injuries, including concussion assessment and management and minor wounds.

Leading the clinic effort will be Porter Pediatric mainstays Dr. Francisco “Paco” Corbalan and Nurse Practitioner Monica Benjamin. The pair will staff the clinic and will seek to add more Porter personnel if/when need arises. And Porter officials confirmed clinics could be set up in other Addison County high schools depending on the success of the MUHS model and the needs of surrounding districts.

“It’s something that’s been discussed in the past but that has never quite gotten off the ground,” Corbalan said on Tuesday during an interview at MUHS.

Organizers looked at other school-based clinics and determined the model could work at MUHS. Corbalan and Benjamin agreed to take a lead in set-up and operation of the new service.

Tom Manion is vice president of the Porter Medical Group. He hails from an area in upstate New York where school-based clinics have become tried and true in providing greater access to quality health care. So when Corbalan and Benjamin brought the idea to Porter Medical Center administration, he was an immediate fan.

“School-based health is pretty well-established as something that’s out in the world and something we should be doing,” Manion said.

The Porter Medical Center board last fall embraced the idea and agreed to give the clinic the necessary resources. In addition to supporting Corbalan and Benjamin’s off-site activities, Porter will cover the equipment (such as exam table) and supplies (such as blood pressure cuffs and lab collection materials).

Organizers stressed the new clinic is an optional service and students needn’t be Porter Pediatric patients as a precondition for visiting the facility. Students however must pre-enroll. Registration forms were mailed to students’ families last month.

Corbalan, like Manion, comes from an area with a robust school-based health system.

“Building that from the ground up (at MUHS) is an exciting thing,” Corbalan said. “I think adolescents are a particularly vulnerable population, and so anything we can do to increase their access to support and things they need I think is in their best interest and a really valuable thing.”

The clinic will be based in the career center’s wellness center, right next to the MUHS building. It will include a small waiting area and private exam room.

“It’s basically an extension of the pediatric clinic that we have,” Manion said. “It’s a phenomenal way to bring access to the kids.”

A summary of each visit will be sent to the student’s primary care provider to ensure that ongoing care, if needed, can be coordinated. Medical records will, of course, be kept private, and high school students have a right to confidential health care — which is protected by law.

Fees for service will vary based on the medical services provided. Private insurance and Medicaid/Green Mountain Care will be accepted, and sliding scale options will be offered to students from households that have no insurance.

Officials noted the clinic won’t offer sports physicals, but will help the student make such an appointment with his or her primary health care provider. And the clinic isn’t intended to supplant provider visits.

The new clinic will represent a homecoming of sorts for Benjamin. She’s a former MUHS school nurse.

“I’m really excited to come back in a provider capacity and bring health care to the kids where they need it,” said Benjamin.

Current MUHS school Nurses Kelly Landwehr and Arlene Matthewson will assist with the clinic. Their duties will include scheduling student appointments and follow-up. Appointments will be offered on a first-come, first-served basis, Landwehr said.

Landwehr views the clinic as a nice boost in student health care options at MUHS. She’s looking forward to helping make the new venture successful and believe families will find it super convenient.

“We can now offer parents the option of setting up an appointment here, versus taking their children out of school,” she said on Tuesday during a lull in her office, which sees an average of 25 students a day for ailments ranging from headaches to scrapes and bruises.

Along with broadening health care options for kids, the new clinic will accomplish another goal of the school, Landwehr noted.

“It’s connecting our school and students to the greater community,” she said.

Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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