education

A new community health clinic has opened inside Belgrade Middle School to provide easier access to health care primarily for students, their families, and school employees.

 While the partnership between the Belgrade School District and Community Health Partners (CHP) is the first of its kind in Gallatin County, the health center is based on a national model that locates primary care providers inside schools.

 “School-based health centers are not a new concept, but there are only a few in Montana,” explained Lander Cooney, CHP’s chief executive officer.

 CHP already operates a clinic at 19 E. Main Street in Belgrade, but the school satellite is designed to provide “barrier-free access” to family practice services for certain patients. Because access to school buildings currently is restricted due to the pandemic, Cooney said the middle school clinic will serve only those allowed into the building at this time.

 Cooney said the satellite clinic is “starting small,” and will be open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for various services, including blood pressure work-ups, prescription services, immunizations, sports physicals, wound/orthopedic care, diabetes management or lab work. Additional services, including behavioral health, may be accessed through CHP at its other locations. Dental services also are available in Bozeman, Livingston and West Yellowstone.

 Belgrade Middle School Principal Julie Mickolio predicted the so-called Panther Clinic will be a “great resource, not only for parents and students but the staff as well.”

 She said that especially during a pandemic, “it’s nice knowing they’re here in the building – it’s a sense of security in a way.”

 The nonprofit CHP’s services at the school-based health center and its other locations are available to everyone, regardless of their ability to pay. CHP accepts all insurance coverages, and a sliding fee discount is available to individuals and families who qualify based on family size and income.

 CHP also helps families connect to other resources for assistance with housing, education and other issues. Resource coordinators are based at each medical site so assist patients with such matters, as well as with applications for medical insurance.

 “Health is so much more than healthcare,” Cooney said. “We’re here to help people achieve well-being.” 

Schools Superintendent Godfrey Saunders said the district is “tremendously excited by this partnership to deliver new services to our district families and staff.”

 Cooney, in turn, lauded the administration and school board for supporting the development of the clinic for the past two years.

 “The school district is really working on making sure students can be healthier,” she said.

 The Panther Clinic will be open Mondays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Wednesdays and Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

To make an appointment at the new clinic, call (406) 924-2478. New patient paperwork can be completed online at https://chphealthmt.org/.