For students in the Marion School District, access to affordable health care is only a few steps away.

Since 2018, the district has partnered with the East Arkansas Family Health Center to operate a School-Based Health Center (SBHC). Located on the campus of Marion High School, the SBHC offers almost every service imaginable to its students and staff. Marion is one of the few school districts in Arkansas to provide a health care center on campus.

“We started this clinic because (Marion Superintendent) Dr. Glen Fenter wanted kids to miss as little class as possible because of illness,” said SBHC enrollment specialist Sonya Lampley. “We're a small clinic, but we offer everything that the big clinic does. We even offer mental health therapy.”

The clinic can do bloodwork, labs, and everything except X-rays, which would be referred elsewhere. The SBHC also does physicals for Marion athletes.

Any student can get treatment at the SBHC just by getting a signed consent form from their parent.

“This way, a parent doesn't have to take off work to take their child to the doctor,” said Lampley. “We can just pull them out of class and treat them at the school.”

The SBHC is open Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. All forms of insurance are accepted, and if you don't have insurance, there's a discount based on income. The SBHC treats more than 1,000 students per school year on average.

Every MSD campus has a dedicated school nurse on site, but the nurses work in concert with the SBHC. Students and faculty should see the school nurse before going to the SBHC. Students can be transported around the district by school resource officers if the school nurse refers them to the SBHC.

“It's a really easy, and fast process,” said Lampley. “If a student needs to go home, they can; but it's also simple to get them back to class.”

The SBHC is also providing crucial services in support of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, including on-site Covid tests, for students or faculty who need them.

“We put an emphasis on communication with parents, and how best to treat kids,” said nurse practitioner Ursula Logan McBay. “We always want to educate people on those options. Covid is unfortunately not going anywhere, so our job is to manage it the best way we can.”

The feedback from the clinic has been overwhelmingly positive from parents and students alike.

“We often hear from parents of kids who can't afford to miss work or it's not convenient to take their children to the doctor,” said Lampley. “Inevitably, kids are going to get sick, so being able to touch a lot of people this way is very fulfilling.”

“We had a student come in very recently who had been feeling fatigued, and my background is in family medicine,” said McBay. “We ran some tests on her, and it seemed like it was diabetes because that's what her symptoms were saying. When her tests came back and it was diabetes, it was a relief that we were able to identify that and get her the help she needed.”