Health & Medicine

Health clinic at Lexington school extends hours, expands to community

Nurse practitioner Bhavani Mody inspected a cavity as she examined Aleika Stonestreet recently at the William Wells Brown School Clinic.
Nurse practitioner Bhavani Mody inspected a cavity as she examined Aleika Stonestreet recently at the William Wells Brown School Clinic. Mary Meehan

Markus Parrish, 2, wriggles his fingers inside a latex glove that swallows his tiny hand, then he turns his attention to his sister.

"Boo, boo?" he asks Aleika Stonestreet, 14, as she presses a gauze square to a finger just pricked by nurse Joni Green for a blood test.

Across the hall, another member of the family, Jurrica Reed, 17, is being examined by nurse practitioner Bhavani Mody, who is asking Jurrica about her favorite class at school, her soda-drinking habits and other topics.

Their mom, Lakisha Fullwood, was surprised to discover the William Wells Brown Community Clinic in her neighborhood. She was referred to the Fifth Street clinic when she called to get an appointment at the Lexington Fayette-County Health Department's Primary Care Center on Newtown Pike. She wasn't aware that the clinic was open to kids who didn't attend the school or that there were hours outside of the regular school day, a relatively new change.

"It's closer, it's faster and you can get in and get out," says Fullwood, who says she has been spreading the word about the clinic.

Fliers have been distributed in neighborhood businesses and throughout the school, but advertising about the new extended hours has mainly been by word of mouth. During the last month of school, the clinic was open to the community from 3 to 6 p.m. Tuesdays.

Fayette County Public Schools got out for the summer Friday, so now the clinic will be open from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays. The clinic accepts health insurance but also sees patients on a sliding scale determined by their income.

The idea for the clinic grew out of the need expressed by parents whose children attend William Wells Brown Elementary School. Often, Mody says, it's difficult for parents to take time off from work during school hours. And some families would ask whether siblings who didn't attend the school could get care at the clinic.

The clinic has files on about 200 students, Mody says, and a core group of about 50 families are regular users. She says she hopes the number will increase with the expanded hours.

For years, the health department has worked with Fayette County Public Schools and other health partners to operate clinics at Tates Creek, Arlington and Harrison elementary schools. Those clinics treat cuts and scrapes but also can treat illnesses such as strep throat and stomachaches, and can refer students who need more extensive medical care, dental help or mental health treatment.

William North, executive director of the Primary Care Center, says the school clinics are an important way to provide preventive care to the community. Children with chronic illnesses, such as diabetes or asthma, can get consistent monitoring and avoid serious health flare-ups that might otherwise cause them to miss school days.

The extended hours at William Wells are a pilot project that ideally could be expanded at that school and replicated at the other school clinics, North says.

"We are learning what works best," he says.

An important part of what Mody does is educate parents about helping their kids make healthy choices, such as urging Aleika to brush and floss more regularly and encouraging Jurrica to cut back on the number of sodas she drinks.

It helps to have the clinic in the school because it can ease any fears about going to the doctor.

"A school is a safe place," Mody says.

And 2-year-old Markus is glad the family found the clinic, but it has nothing to do with his health. He tells his sister that when he gets home, he wants to fill up his latex glove with water. He already has a potential victim in mind.