Clinic at AHS gets a boost

In a time when the survival of many Ashland High School programs are in jeopardy, the school's health center received a lifeline in the form of a matching grant worth up to $25,000.

According to a press release, $8,000 has been raised so far, and the center needs the community's assistance raising the remaining $17,000 needed to get the full amount available from the Howard Family Foundation.

Since spring 1990, Ashland High School students have reaped the benefits of a school-based health center.

"We do primary, emergency and preventative care," said Judy Blickenstaff, a family nurse practitioner at the high school. "I see kids for anything from a Band-Aid to suicidal thoughts."

In addition to providing sports physicals and immunizations, the program offers students advice from medical professionals in a confidential environment.

"Teenagers make some really interesting decisions," Blickenstaff said. "What we try to do is encourage better decision-making as much as possible."

"I'm sure that there's plenty they don't tell me, but I hear enough to keep us busy," she said.

According to Blickenstaff, the issues differ from year to year, but depression seems to be rising among youth as the economy sours.

Blickenstaff said, "It seems that the issues are different each year. One year it will be eating disorders, the next year it'll be cutting themselves, this year I've seen several kids who were acutely suicidal."

"Several is enough to scare me," she added.

Blickenstaff says that the program can serve as many as half of the students at the high school.

"Last year that number was smaller because I was down to 20 hours a week," she said.

The program is funded primarily through the Oregon Health Division and the Ashland School District, with additional funding from grants and fundraisers. One funding agency, the Howard Family Foundation, has been especially supportive of the center. According to Blickenstaff, the center has donated $151,000 in total throughout the years.

"When you look into the total amount that they have put in, it is just incredible," she said.

The Howard Family Foundation was founded by Martha Howard-Bullen, a former teacher and Ashland School District parent who saw the importance of a school-based health center. The foundation has supported the center with donations of $50,000 in 2004 and $51,000 in 2006. The current matching grant will be used to keep the health center open for the 2009-2010 school year.

The $8,000 raised so far has come from other grants. Soroptimist International of Ashland was one of the first to respond to the matching grant challenge with $1,000.

"I'm finding every grant that I think we can apply for, and I'm applying," said Blickenstaff. She added that she spends about four hours a week researching and applying for grants for the program. In previous years, Blickenstaff put on fundraisers such as spaghetti feeds and benefit auctions.

"I've been focusing on grants because the budget shortfall has been larger," said Blickenstaff.

Blickenstaff encourages community members to contribute, including former students who have been helped by the center and parents who haven't had to pay copays or deductibles while their children received services. Checks should be made out to Jackson County Health Department and mailed or delivered to AHS Health Center, 201 S. Mountain Ave., Ashland, OR 97520. For questions, call Blickenstaff at 482-8771 extension 207.

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