Health Centers In Schools Marks 10th Year

When La’Derica Stewart suffered a seizure one day in class while in 9th grade at Northeast High School in Baton Rouge, medical care was close at hand.

She doesn’t remember the 5-minute episode, but a teacher later told La’Derica she seemed awake, yet not conscious. “I was standing there, the teacher said she was talking to me but I wasn’t hearing anything,” La’Derica said.

Rather than calling 9-1-1, the school summoned Nurse Practitioner Tiffany Roberts, who staffs the school-based health clinic at Northeast High.

Roberts quickly assessed La’Derica and found her vital signs were stable, making an ambulance ride to an emergency room unnecessary.

“Miss Tiffany got me to the school clinic and asked if I was taking my medicine, which I hadn’t been,” recalled La’Derica, now a senior. “She got me some information and an appointment so I could get my medicine.”

The clinic at Northeast is one of seven operated by Our Lady of the Lake Children's Health Centers in Schools. It began in 2008 with the mission to provide much needed healthcare to children and teens.

The program, now in its 10th year, makes healthcare available to 41,000 students attending local public schools. Its team of physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses and licensed clinical social workers staff seven permanent school-based clinics and provide care at 34 other schools via mobile clinics. Traveling RNs and LPNs provide care at schools without a full clinic.

The program does much more than respond to medical crises. The medical team provides ongoing care to students with chronic conditions such as diabetes, asthma and sickle cell disorder. The team also provides vision and hearing care, including 25,000 vision screenings and 22,500 hearing screenings a year, said Sue Catchings, program director.

School-based health centers also provide sports physicals for athletes, and refer students to area dentists who are in urgent need of dental care.

For kids like Northeast High’s La’Derica Stewart, Health Centers in Schools means more than swift care. Thanks to the program she is under the care of a neurologist, keeps up with her medicines and is learning how to manage her own care.

She even advocates on behalf of other students as Northeast High’s representative on the Student Alliance Council, on which a student from each health center school provides feedback to decision makers about the program’s services.

It’s work she’s happy to do. “I know the health center nurses care about me,” La’Derica said.