Health officer seeks county money to reopen children's clinic

January 06, 1994|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,Staff Writer

The county health officer is looking for money to reopen a pediatric development clinic that became a casualty of state budget cuts more than a year ago.

The clinic, which served about 80 children annually, provided complete neurological evaluations and follow-up care to children with behavioral problems or learning and developmental disabilities.

Dr. Janet Neslen, the health officer, said she plans to approach the county commissioners to discuss funding for reopening the clinic.

She said there is a significant need for its services.

"I think the loss has been to the children," Dr. Neslen said. "Very often these children are not only a problem to themselves, they are a problem to other kids because of impulsive behaviors in the classroom."

She said about $60,000 is needed to staff the clinic with a full-time nurse and a physician trained in pediatric development and neurology, who would see clinic patients two or three times a month.

Dr. Neslen approached the school system about contributing $30,000 toward the clinic because the schools referred many of the patients. But the school board refused, saying it viewed the issue as a health problem rather than an education problem, she said.

Steven D. Powell, the county's budget director, said he and Dr. Neslen have discussed several possible sources of funding for the clinic, but no money has been identified.

After the pediatric development clinic closed in fall 1992, the health department continued to provide follow-up services to those children "by squeezing every bit of nursing time we can find," Dr. Neslen said.

When a child was referred to the clinic, the clinic nurse collected detailed information from the parents and teachers. Then the physician performed a neurological evaluation on the child.

Some of the most common problems were attention-deficit disorder, general behavioral problems and developmental delays.

In some cases, the child was placed on medication and monitored by the clinic nurse. Sometimes the child also required counseling or behavior modification, or a combination of treatments.

After the diagnosis, the clinic nurse would made school visits to monitor the child's progress and remain in touch with the parents.

The services the clinic provided required a great deal of individual attention from staff, said Dr. Elizabeth Ruff, director of maternal and child health with the health department.

"There has to be [individual attention]," Dr. Ruff said. "If you start the child on medication, you have to monitor it quite carefully, and that involves keeping in touch with the school and the parents."

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