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Free children's health clinics fill summer gap.

Byline: ANNE WILLIAMS The Register-Guard

Maxine Proskurowski spared no effort getting the word out about the free children's summer health clinic starting at North Eugene High School on Monday.

Braving 90-plus-degree heat, she spent much of this week pedaling her Raleigh 8-speed bicycle to city parks and middle school summer programs to hand out fliers and talk with kids about immunizations, sports physicals, mental health counseling and the many other health care services that will be offered at the six-week clinic.

Proskurowski, a registered nurse who supervises the Eugene School District's four high-school-based health centers, doesn't worry that a crush of young clients will overwhelm the summer clinic staff.

In fact, she'd welcome it.

"We really fill a need for a lot of these families," said Proskurowski, who acquired something of a Mother Teresa reputation during her 11 years as the school nurse at Whiteaker Elementary School, which served the largest percentage of poor and Latino children in Eugene before it closed last year.

On Wednesday, Proskurowski spent the morning at Kelly Middle School, screening kids for hearing and vision problems. The students, all of them participants in a grant-funded summer school program at Kelly, filed into the classroom in threes and fours. Taking turns, they first donned headphones, lifting either their right or left hand each time they heard a faint series of beeps in one ear or the other. Next, they sat down a few feet from a vision chart, obligingly covering one eye and then the other, reading off the tiny letters.

Eleven-year-old Maetzi Contreras was one of several kids who read off the letters in Spanish - a language in which Proskurowski is fluent, having grown up in Mexico to an American family.

Proskurowski handed every student a flyer about the free clinic, but Contreras probably didn't need one. She and her two sisters currently rely on the North Eugene center year-round for all their health-care needs, she said. She's had all her vaccinations and vision care there, and got referrals from its staff for free dental work.

"We used to (have a doctor), but we don't anymore," said Contreras, who moved from Mexico four years ago. As for her parents, the girl said, they just don't see the doctor.

The Contrerases are typical of many of the families served at the clinic, Proskurowski said.

"We see a lot of Latino families," she said. "The parents don't have (health benefits) through their work, and if the children are not born in the United States they don't qualify for the Oregon Health Plan."

While most of the clinic's clients lack any medical coverage, the center is seeing increasing numbers of under-insured children, whose families may have coverage but can't afford the cost of co-payments or noncovered services.

"If they have health insurance, they have to have a real valid reason why they are coming in," Proskurowski said.

It's the seventh year for the summer clinic, and the fifth year it's been open five days a week. The center serves students and their siblings from all over Lane County; last year, about 380 kids visited the clinic. Another 220 or so received referrals for health care through nurses' regular visits to the parks and summer programs.

The numbers continue to rise, particularly with increasingly stringent state requirements for immunizations and sports physicals, Proskurowski said. Common summer ailments include conjunctivitis - an eye inflammation - allergies and bladder infections, she said.

The center is staffed by a registered nurse, a nurse practitioner, a mental health therapist and a health clerk. Proskurowski will likely miss most if not all of the clinic, as she's leaving for vacation this weekend.

The summer clinic's $55,000 budget comes from several sources, including the Lane County Human Services Commission, the Safe Schools/Healthy Students Initiative, the city of Eugene and the Bethel-Eugene-Springfield Together (BEST) for Kids grant.

In addition, the center is the beneficiary of numerous in-kind services.

During the school year, the North Eugene health center - one of four in the district - operates with funds from the school district, the state, PeaceHealth and other donors.

"This is really unique," Proskurowski said. "The school district support is unusual, and the community collaboration is also unique. It really stands out as being different."

The Springfield School District has a free clinic at Springfield High School. Bethel closed its clinic after the 2000-01 school year, but Proskurowski said officials there may be interested in contracting with the Eugene district to provide care to students during the school year.

SUMMER HEALTH CENTER

When: July 15 through Aug. 23, Monday through Friday,

8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Where: North Eugene High School, 200 Silver Lane (off River Road near Belt Line Road)

Who is eligible: Lane County students and their siblings, preschool-age through grade 12, who are unable to receive medical or mental health care.

Services include: Immunizations, physical examinations, treatment of acute and chronic illnesses and injuries, reproductive health care, mental health counseling.

For appointments: Call 687-3271.

- The Register-Guard

CAPTION(S):

CHRIS PIETSCH / The Register-Guard Clinic nurse Maxine Proskurowski (right) prepares 11-year-old Maetzi Contreras for a hearing test at a Eugene School District health center at Kelly Middle School in Eugene.
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Title Annotation:Schools: The program serves hundreds of under-insured students and their siblings.; Schools
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jul 11, 2002
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