Kaitlyn Feltis ’18 (left) and Liz Kerr (right) in the LincolnHealth School-Based Health Clinic at LA/LincolnHealth School-Based Health Clinic staff (from left): Nurse Practitioner Liz Kerr, Medical Assistant Kaitlyn Feltis ’18, and social worker Heather Norris. 

LincolnHealth, the major health care system in Lincoln County, staffs and maintains School-Based Health Centers (SBHCs) in four midcoast high schools: Lincoln Academy, Boothbay High School, Medomak Valley High School, and Morse High School. These clinics serve as extensions of LincolnHealth, and offer primary care services right on campus. “We offer pretty much everything that your primary care doctor does,” said AnniPat McKenney, Director of the Coulombe Center for Health Improvement based at LincolnHealth, which supports SBHCs in the midcoast. “Think of SBHCs as an extension of your regular doctor’s office.”

The SBHCs provide services including immunizations, simple diagnostics like strep tests, sports physicals, mental health counseling, and reproductive health services, among others.

Lincoln Academy’s SBHC works in conjunction with the school nurse’s office to support students’ overall health. While the school nurse screens students for basic wellness, there are limitations to what that office can provide. “Where the school nurse might have to refer a student to their primary care office for a strep test or other screening, or to write a prescription, here they can just send the student next door,” said McKenney. “There are certain things that school nurses can do to support the school population, and certain things that are usually accessed through primary care that we can do at the SBHC.”

“Having a LincolnHealth office right in the building is a huge benefit for LA students,” said Kerri Ferrante, Director of the Lincoln Academy Health Center. “It can take days or weeks for students to get in to see a primary care provider outside of school, but our provider can almost always see students the same day, whether they need a checkup or a referral for an x-ray, or something else. This partnership with LincolnHealth has definitely expanded our ability to serve kids who need care.”

Nurse practitioners at each of the four high school sites work under the supervision of medical director Andy Russ, a pediatrician at LincolnHealth, and Angie Klein, the RN Practice Lead. Lincoln Academy’s SBHC main provider is Liz Kerr, a nurse practitioner who works at the LA office two days a week.

“For many students, their visit to the SBHC is their first experience obtaining medical care without a parent by their side,” said Kerr. “We see this as a significant step for our patients and do what we can to make a supportive and soothing environment for them. As a healthcare provider, I feel uniquely able to connect with students by being located in their school environment, where they spend the majority of their time.”

In addition to a nurse practitioner, each SBHC site has a behavioral health professional on site. In LA’s case this role is served by LincolnHealth licensed clinical social worker Heather Norris, who offers behavioral health treatment for mental health issues. McKenney said that Norris works closely with Lisa Katz and Rachel Bennett, LA’s in-house social workers. “LA is lucky to have strong social work services through the school already, so the three social workers work together to serve the school population.”

Kaitlyn Feltis, who graduated from LA in 2018 is a medical assistant who supports the clinicians at both LA and Medomak. Feltis coordinates care, connects students with the practitioner they need to see, organizes vaccinations, and “does so much more!” said McKenney. “We are lucky to have Kaitlyn on site here.”

As for the nuts and bolts of accessing primary care services on a high school campus, McKenney says, “we are basically a satellite office of LincolnHealth. Anything that would happen at a primary care visit will happen here.” This includes billing insurance, coordinating care with specialists and primary care physicians in the LincolnHealth system, and more.

The clinic location really matters, according to both Kerr and McKenney. “As a parent myself, I appreciate the convenience of having a pediatric office right in the school,” said Kerr. “This means if my child is sick, needs immunizations or a well child check, it can be done seamlessly without disrupting the parent and child’s busy schedules. I only wish I had access to a school based health center when I was in school!”

McKenney agrees. “We are right here, and can connect directly with kids. Sometimes that makes the difference between a kid getting care and not getting care.”

To contact LincolnHealth’s School Based Health Clinics, call 207-633-1381 or email lincolnhealthschoolclinics@mainehealth.org.